Fully-funded $50m SSF Caltrain station revamp delayed indefinitely
- Published Saturday, April 18, 2009, by the San Francisco Examiner
South City Caltrain station pedestrian plan derailed
Pedestrian access to the South San Francisco Caltrain station is limited. One approach is down a narrow, steep stairway from the Grant Avenue overpass.
By Katie Worth
A $50 million plan for a new Caltrain station in this city that would be more accessible to pedestrians, particularly those coming from downtown, has been indefinitely delayed -- despite the fact that the project is fully funded.
On Wednesday, the South San Francisco City Council voted to put a hold on the project, which aimed to make accessible a train station that has been virtually unused because it is difficult to reach.
Belmont resident Jeff Barrett, who travels by train to South City for his work at an architecture firm, called it a "trek" to get to the station.
"At night, it's definitely not a safe place to be," he added.
Two factors can be blamed for the delay, said Caltrain spokeswoman Christine Dunn. Caltrain decided it would be better to wait and determine exactly how the state's planned high speed rail project will be configured before starting to make any major changes to the landscape of tracks through the city. Additionally, despite years of negotiations, transportation officials remain at an impasse with Union Pacific for relocation of some of its train tracks, a needed component of the project.
Given those barriers, city officials felt it was best to hold off on the new train station, but with concerns that the delay could put at risk more than $50 million in funding pegged for the project: $30 million from the region's Municipal Transportation Commission and another $20 from the San Mateo County Transportation Authority. Another $5.5 million for a pedestrian underpass was to come from city coffers, said city Engineer Ray Razavi.
"It's a risk," said Razavi. "But the whole concept is to do things once, rather than waste any taxpayer money."
The South City Caltrain station is boxed in on one side by train tracks, which prevents pedestrians from approaching the station from the east. On the other side is Highway 101, which prevents pedestrians from the city's downtown area from walking to the station, despite the fact that it is relatively nearby. The only two ways to approach the station by foot are by hiking up the Grant Avenue overpass and then descending a tight, steep stairway to the station, or by walking along an unfriendly freeway frontage road.
Shifting the station just a few hundred yards south so it sits under the freeway, along with the short pedestrian tunnel, would connect downtown and the eastern offices.
In theory the city could proceed with some parts of the project, such as the tunnel, but without a station to link it to, they would be building "a tunnel to nowhere," said Mayor Karyl Matsumoto.
Grind to a halt
66,000: South San Francisco population
110,000: Number of people employed in South San Francisco
$51 million+: Estimated cost for the construction of a new SSF
$5.5m: Estimated cost for a pedestrian underpass to reach new station
90%: plans and specifications for now-stalled project that are complete
Source: City of South San Francisco
[BATN: See also:
South SF moves ahead with $55m plan for new Caltrain station (16 Oct 08)
$50m SSF Caltrain station revamp expected to open in 2011 (19 Mar 08)
Caltrain plans $50m move, revamp of its bleak SSF station (18 Mar 08)
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Lantos blusters about toxic UPRR freight cars parked in SSF (12 Jan 06)
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