Dumbarton Rail going on hold

At today’s San Mateo County Transportation Authority meeting, the board members heard a staff proposal to put the Dumbarton Rail project, which would provide commuter rail service across an abandoned rail bridge from the East Bay to Redwood City Caltrain,  on indefinite hold.  After the failure of Alameda County’s 2012 transportation sales tax measure, which would have contributed $120 million to Dumbarton Rail failed by a tiny margin, 66.53 to 33.47, the project did not have anywhere near the funding needed to move forward.  The project was estimated to cost $700 to $800 million, and only $350 million had been identified for the project.

This leaves the MTC and the San Mateo County Transportation Authority with $35 million and $50 million respectively, which had been earmarked for the Dumbarton project, now slated for reallocation.   The $50 million from the SMCTA had earlier been diverted from San Mateo County’s grade separation program. The most likely result for the money would be to return to be used for grade separation.  This is timely because the County is currently conducting a “call for projects” for current grade separation needs. Today, the SMCTA heard an informational presentation; the decision will be made at the November 7 TA Board meeting.

The $35 million in the MTC’s hands is being reviewed for alternative projects that would help transit in the same corridor.   Operating funding that had been originally targeted to run the rail line is now being used to fund the Dumbarton Express bus which runs between Union City BART and Palo Alto/Stanford.    The MTC will review proposals for the money at an upcoming committee meeting. The SMCTA has asked for an extension from MTC so they can gather more ideas for ways to use the funding for improvements to the transit corridor.

One good idea proposed by SMCTA Citizens’ Advisory Committee member Jim Bigelow is to use some of the funds to extend bus service to Redwood City. As Facebook increases employment, and other new employment and housing developments are being planned for the corridor, more bus service to/from Redwood City would be welcome.  Do readers have other ideas about how to improve transit between East and West Bay given the money available?