Daily Journal Article Headline

 

Today the San Mateo Daily Journal featured an article about the SamTrans Board vote to approve the final Dumbarton Transportation Study, "Changes to Dumbarton recieves OK." Here's what I had to say about this positive development:

"Warren Slocum, an MTC commissioner and county supervisor whose district includes the western terminus of the bridge, said it’s critical to build regional consensus on the need for improvements in this southern crossing.

'I’m convinced that this project needs to rise to the top of the list,' Slocum said. 'I think this is the missing link, this Dumbarton link is key for folks that have migrated out to the San Joaquin Valley or East Bay.'

Slocum pointed to the recently released California State Rail Plan that lists the Dumbarton crossing as a positive indicator. But he agreed driving continued support from the private sector will be key as a growing number of employees commute from their East Bay homes to major job centers along the built-out Peninsula."

Read the full article below.

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Changes to Dumbarton receives OK

Ambitious plan suggests new transbay rail, managed lanes, more bus service; but details and financing not finalized

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An ambitious plan that aims to address regional gridlock in the South Bay with a range short- and long-term improvements along the Dumbarton car bridge and currently defunct rail bridge was approved by San Mateo County Transit District officials Tuesday.

The comprehensive Dumbarton Corridor Study offers a variety of options including more express buses, creating managed lanes along the car bridge, constructing a bike and pedestrian path, and more. The report also suggests a $1.27 billion overhaul of the century-old currently unused bridge to create the first transbay rail crossing in more than 40 years. That proposed rail “shuttle” service between Redwood City and Union City could ultimately link Caltrain, BART, Altamont Corridor Express and the Capitol Corridor. Supporters have touted it as the “missing link” to a regional rail system that could carry passengers from as far as Sacramento and the San Joaquin Valley to jobs in the heart of Silicon Valley.

Any eventual improvements will require regional cooperation as the corridor crosses multiple counties, cities, state right-of-way and numerous transportation agencies.

SamTrans, which owns the rail bridge, opted to take the lead on the report after Facebook contributed $1.2 million toward reviving a study that has been kicked around for decades. While there is significant work ahead with each improvement requiring more study and no funding currently allotted toward the projects, supporters were pleased to see the plan jump its first official hurdle with the SamTrans board’s approval.

“I think this is a truly potentially game-changing plan. This is the first time we’ve had anything of this size and scope. It’s going to require a lot of help from the private sector, to be honest, if we’re going to get it done. But I think between the bus and the rail options, we could see a remarkable reduction in traffic congestion and increase ridership in public transit, which is a win-win,” said SamTrans board Vice Chair Charles Stone.

Funding will be a key challenge, particularly as the corridor has been left out from other sources in the past. Dumbarton’s slice of Regional Measure 2, the most recent bridge toll increase overseen by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, was reallocated to other projects. Now, Regional Measure 3 is in the works should voters in the nine-county Bay Area approve toll hikes of up to $3. But there’s already steep competition for funding and only $130 million from RM3 is pointed to Dumbarton out of the nearly $4.5 billion in anticipated revenue.

 “We have a laundry list of job creators and innovators here and the Dumbarton corridor was overlooked in RM2 after promises were made. I truly hope with RM3, that we see substantial monies flowing to this project, because it is a regional project,” Stone said.

Other opportunities could avail from Senate Bill 1, which included a statewide gas tax increase.

The timely release of the plan aligned with the Legislature’s approval of an RM3 expenditure plan and helped renew focus on the need for regional cooperation to address traffic congestion.

“The hope is that this plan will inspire a lot of dialogue and regional focus on this corridor and that’s appeared to have happened,” said Dave Pine, a SamTrans board member and San Mateo County supervisor.

Warren Slocum, an MTC commissioner and county supervisor whose district includes the western terminus of the bridge, said it’s critical to build regional consensus on the need for improvements in this southern crossing.

“I’m convinced that this project needs to rise to the top of the list,” Slocum said. “I think this is the missing link, this Dumbarton link is key for folks that have migrated out to the San Joaquin Valley or East Bay.”

Slocum pointed to the recently released California State Rail Plan that lists the Dumbarton crossing as a positive indicator. But he agreed driving continued support from the private sector will be key as a growing number of employees commute from their East Bay homes to major job centers along the built-out Peninsula.

The rail bridge has the potential to link train service around the Bay and beyond. The study recommends first building a commuter rail “shuttle” between Redwood City and Newark, which is estimated to cost about $975 million to bring the defunct bridge up to standard and provide dual tracks. A second phase costing about $295 million would extend the rail into Union City where it can connect with BART, according to SamTrans.

That option could service 15,600 daily riders and mark the first transbay rail since BART opened its tube in 1974. In the longer term, another $327 million investment could better interline Dumbarton rail with other train services, including ACE and Capitol Corridor, according to SamTrans.

More bus service could mean worse car traffic

But with the Bay Area’s traffic congestion hitting urgency levels, the plan also looks shorter-term opportunities to increase throughput along the car bridge. Pine said he’d like prompt action on the expansion of express bus service. That option, which would include bridge approach improvements to speed up bus service, is estimated to cost $51 million with $12 million in operational costs. That investment could accommodate 13,700 more riders, a 34 percent increase than those currently taking the bus over the Bay at Dumbarton, according to SamTrans.

“It’s very important to keep in mind that we can make tremendous improvements in the throughput on the corridor in the short term with very modest investments,” Pine said.

But convincing people to ride the bus may mean SamTrans is willing to worsen traffic for solo drivers. The plan recommends creating express lanes on Dumbarton that would connect to managed lanes on Highway 101 and plans to extend them further north to Interstate 380. The managed lanes would be open to buses, shuttles, carpoolers and those willing to pay a toll. The preferred alternative for Dumbarton is to take away a lane of traffic in each direction and create express lanes, which may decrease capacity of the general purpose lanes by a third, according to the report.

Another option considered was a single reversible express lane down the center that could switched to meet traffic patterns that indicate 79 percent of commuters are heading from their East Bay homes to the job-rich Peninsula in the morning and back east in the evening. That option would preserve the general purpose lanes but could cost more to construct. Either way, the car bridge is Caltrans’ right of way and further comparison would be required before decisions are made.

Stone, however, noted his priority is getting the most people across the bridge as possible. Encouraging people to get out of their cars and take mass transit is the best way to accomplish that, he said.

“We need to be able to move more people through this corridor in a more efficient way,” Stone said.

Stone and Pine said they were also pleased the SamTrans board assured a commitment to bicyclists and pedestrians who’ve called for a new multi-modal path. That option will need further study as it’s not yet clear whether there is sufficient right-of-way along the train tracks that stretch from the former rail bridge into the North Fair Oaks community.

Visit samtrans.com to review the Dumbarton Corridor Study.

samantha@smdailyjournal.com