New $1.5 billion rail shortfall imperils S.F. Transbay to Caltrain link

By Chris Rauber : bizjournals – excerpt

Already underfunded plans to bring high-speed rail service to San Francisco face a new $1.5 billion shortfall, which San Francisco officials say is due to cost cutting by the cash-strapped California High-Speed Rail Authority.

That funding was crucial not only to link the state’s high-speed rail project with San Francisco, but to fund the 1.3-mile rail connection between the Caltrain station at Fourth and King streets and the under-construction Transbay Transit Center. The transit center is already struggling with cost overruns and a transition in leadership.

The Transbay Transit Center, a 1 million-square-foot South of Market regional transportation hub is slated for completion by late 2017, but critics have said it will be a billion-dollar bus terminal if the extension to Caltrain and the bullet train doesn’t get built. The $1.5 billion shortfall could further imperil the extension.

The huge drop in the amount of money the city is expecting to receive from the California rail agency is spelled out in an April 13 letter to the high-speed rail authority from the heads of several San Francisco agencies.

The letter says the city’s Transbay Transit Center’s funding from the High-Speed Rail Authority “will be reduced by $1.5 billion to $550 million,” citing the authority’s recently revised draft 2016 business plan.

The San Francisco officials called the rail agency funding “an integral part” of financing the planned Caltrain/high-speed rail extension to the new transit hub.

The missive, obtained by the Business Times, asks the rail authority to reinstate the funding and make San Francisco, instead of San Jose, the terminus of its initial bullet-train tracks.

A revised plan, announced at a California High-Speed Rail Authority board meeting last week, indicated that the first $21 billion operating segment of the planned system would link San Jose to the Central Valley by 2025, rather than connecting Southern California to the state’s midsection.

The lower funding amount “caused me deep concern,” said Supervisor Scott Wiener, who chairs the San Francisco County Transportation Authority. “The high-speed rail authority needs to be a full and complete partner” with San Francisco. “Hopefully, this will be a bump in the road, and they will reverse course.”… (more)

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