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2003 Feb 08: Fremont Argus: Dumbarton Rail: stalled, defunded ?

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    Fremont Argus Dumbarton Bridge rail going nowhere Sluggish economy adds burden on counties expected By Sean R. Cabibi STAFF WRITER Saturday, February 08, 2003
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 8, 2003
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      Fremont Argus

      Dumbarton Bridge rail going nowhere
      Sluggish economy adds burden on counties expected
      By Sean R. Cabibi
      STAFF WRITER

      Saturday, February 08, 2003 - Tri-City residents planning to catch a
      train to the Peninsula across an old trestle bridge near the Dumbarton
      Bridge may have to wait longer than anticipated.

      Plans to rebuild an abandoned railway bridge that extends over the
      southern portion of the Bay continue to languish, and with
      California's staggering economy, may not come to fruition anytime
      soon.

      "As far as I know, no plans have been formulated how operation of the
      trains would be funded," said Jayme Maltbie, spokeswoman for Caltrain,
      which is expected to operate the trains.

      The project -- estimated to cost $180million to $286million, depending
      on service levels -- would restructure the 93-year-old trestle bridge
      that extends from Newark to East Palo Alto. The trains would connect
      into the Caltrain system, providing service from the Tri-City area
      over the Bay to as far as Gilroy and San Francisco.

      Newark city officials in 2002 were hopeful trains would be running
      across the bridge by 2007.

      The counties of Alameda, San Mateo and Santa Clara already have
      authorized funding for repairs needed on the bridge through their own
      county transportation taxes, Maltbie said.

      It's unclear how much of a delay budget woes will have on the
      project's progression, said Randy Rentschler, spokesman for the
      Metropolitan Transportation Commission.

      "We have numerous projects being considered for defunding," he
      said. "But things could change with an increase in the gas tax or
      bridge tolls, which are two things being looked into."

      The annual cost to operate the system is expected to range from
      $2million to $3.5million.

      The transportation commission included the project in its 2001
      regional transportation plan, designed to help ease the projected 40
      percent traffic increase during the next 23 years.

      A number of projects identified in the regional plan -- including the
      Dumbarton Rail -- are long-term projects, allowing flexibility during
      slower economic times, Rentschler said.

      "Along with other projects, it's something that will be prioritized
      when a (state) budget is approved," he said.

      Although widely supported because of its low cost compared to other
      transbay options, the project does have its critics.

      Some Peninsula residents say proper feasibility studies and
      environmental assessments have not been made on the project, which
      would increase the number of trains running past hundreds of Peninsula
      homes. In 2001, a San Mateo County civil grand jury also claimed the
      $60 million buy-in was disproportionate to the estimated 20 percent of
      San Mateo ridership.

      The bridge was purchased by Caltrans and the San Mateo Transportation
      Authority in 1994 to secure it for the project.

      "We saw it as a very viable alternative to solve transbay traffic
      congestion," Maltbie said.

      The bridge was built in 1910 by Southern Pacific Railroad to haul
      freight across the Bay and was closed in 1982 because of increasing
      operation costs and a decreasing need. In 1998, several hundred yards
      of the bridge on the western span were severely damaged by a fire.

      Staff writer Sean R. Cabibi covers transportation and environment for
      The Argus. He can be reached at (510) 353-7014 or
      scabibi@... .
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