May 14, 2020
comes from groups committed to the idea that that getting Caltrain connected to
10 other rail lines and over 40 bus lines in downtown San Francisco would be a
major move toward seamless transit and therefore deserving of a high
priority. The attached report discusses
opportunities to productively reduce capital costs…..thereby increasing the
chances of obtaining the public and private funding needed to build the
project. Your help in focusing attention on these cost cutting opportunities,
which would neither delay the project nor adversely affect future rail service,
would be much appreciated.
Transportation Working Group
President of RailPAC
Schonbrunn, President of TRAC
President of SaveMuni
Subject: Streamlining the Caltrain Extension Project
During these difficult times of shutdowns and reduced
resources, it is both necessary and prudent to conserve transit resources
wherever and whenever possible.
With that in mind the Bay Area Transportation Working Group
(BATWG) has updated its previous statements about the DTX project. There appear
to be opportunities to significantly reduce costs without cutting into or
otherwise undermining the passenger rail service into the Sales Force Transit
Center. We are joined in these recommendations by the two preeminent rail
advocacy organizations of California; namely, RailPAC and the Train Riders
Association of California as well as by TRANSDEF, SaveMuni and other DTX
supporters. These opportunities relate to the 4th and King Station, the
proposed Pennsylvania Avenue subway extension, the Tunnel Plug and the subway
under Second Street:
1.) The Fourth and King Station: In places where there are busy streets and sidewalks and no private land available, it is usually necessary to create an intermediate fare collection level between street grade and the train level. However in the case of the Fourth and King Station, there is a generous amount of at-grade space including an attractive at-grade existing terminal available between King and Townsend Streets. In this situation it would not be difficult to route people through fare gates and then to an escalator or stairway leading directly to the train level. To access the west end of the station there could be one or more entries along Townsend Street frontage where travelers would pass through fare gates and then descend to train level. Since the first vertical 30 feet of air space at the site between King and Townsend is under Caltrain control, arranging this should not be difficult to arrange. This change would save an estimated $300,000,000.
2.) The Pennsylvania Avenue Subway Extension: At the February 7, 2020 meeting of the Caltrain Joint Powers Board one of the individuals testifying questioned the need for a two-mile long, “$2 billion+” Caltrain subway under a PennsylvaniaAvenue alignment. As the caller implied it would be much cheaper to depress 16th Street and perhaps also Mission Bay Blvd under the existing tracks than dig two additional miles of parallel subway and tunnel.
The SF Department of City Planning’s 4.5 year long RAB study
was completed late in 2018. In the early years the RAB planners were loudly
critical of all aspects of the TJPA’s design. However, their proposals were discredited
one-by-one, and eventually virtually all of them were quietly dropped.
Reportedly intent on showing a positive result for its effort,
the RAB team latched onto parochial demands that 16th Street remain at grade and
therefore proposed that the existing Caltrain surface alignment be shifted from
its current location under the elevated I-280 freeway to a new subway alignment
under Pennsylvania Avenue. In an effort to justify this odd decision, the RAB
group claimed that the 16th Street underpass would have to be 60′ deep and over
3/4 of a mile long. When asked why the underpass couldn’t be 25 feet deep and
1/4 mile long as most underpasses are, RAB’s Project Manager made a vague
reference to sewers in the street, but refused to elaborate. Subsequent written
questions and comments on the subject were ignored. The official price put on
RAB’s subway extension was “$2+ billion”. An auto underpass at 16th would
provide the necessary grade separation without the need of building an entirely
new two-mile long rail subway. Building the underpass, with elevated
pedestrian/bicycle paths separated from traffic, would allow the surface mainline
Caltrain and future high speed rail alignment to remain at grade.. Estimated
3.) The Tunnel Plug: A few years ago it was decided to add $100,000,000 to the DTX budget to make things easier and less costly if the Pennsylvania alignment were ever built. In the event that it were determined that the Pennsylvania Avenue subway was not necessary the Tunnel Plug could be deleted for an additional savings of $100,000,000.
4.) Subway under Second Street: Second Street is not a particularly busy or fast- moving street, certainly not as jammed with traffic as First and Fremont are. Even so the plan has always been to tunnel most of the Second Street subway. However at the north end of the line where the tracks turn right into the six-track train terminal, the width of the trackway gradually increases to 165 feet. It would be extremely expensive and risky to attempt to tunnel this short section leading into the Sales Force Transit Center. It is estimated that cut and cover excavation at this location could be staged in a manner requiring that only half the street be closed at any one time…and then only until temporary street decking could be put in place. It is estimated that using cut-and-cover methods to excavate this northerly section of Second, as well as the section immediately to the east of the Fourth and King Station where it is too shallow to tunnel, would drop the cost by another $200,000,000.
It goes without saying that the more cost-effective the project
the better the chances of attracting the capital needed to build it. We urge
you to explore these possibilities.