On Friday, Dumbarton Rail Policy Advisory Committee – composed of elected officials in the communities that would be served by the project, including Menlo Park, East Palo Alto, Redwood City, Fremont, Union City and Newark – resolved to continue on the project, despite the fact that MTC has recently repurposed the project’s funding, largely for the Silicon Valley BART project. Smaller amounts were divvied up for Caltrain modernization and improving the Dumbarton bus service. The rail project was de-funded after the last Alameda County transit ballot measure failed at the polls, leaving the project without enough funding to move forward. However, there is still a remaining $5Million bridge toll fund stream paying to run AC Transit buses over the Dumbarton bridge.
At the MTC meeting when the funds were being de-allocated, MTC board member and San Mateo County Supervisor Adrienne Tissier reassured concerned project supporters that after the Caltrain electrification EIR was completed this coming winter, that there would be renewed efforts to restart the project. Instead, the MTC decided to remove its representation from the committee.
Despite these blows, Policy Committee members resolved to keep working on the project. In the paper packet for the Policy Committee meeting was a letter from Facebook, whose headquarters are at the base of the Dumbarton Bridge, expressing strong continuing interest in the project. According to Jim Bigelow of Redwood City/Menlo Park Chamber of Commerce, other major employers also support keeping the project alive. In addition, at community meetings gathering input for an update to Menlo Park’s General Plan, there have been frequent recommendations and encouragement to use of the Dumbarton rail corridor to ease travel between Redwood City, Facebook, and the East Bay.
The challenge is to find enough resources for staff to look for alternative sources of funds. In response to questioning from Menlo Park Council Member Kirsten Keith, staff representative April Chan admitted that because her primary responsibilities lie with Caltrain and SamTrans, it would be a conflict of interest to look for funds for a different transit project. Policy Committee members discussed the possibility of creating a Joint Powers Authority to raise money to bootstrap the process of seeking implementation funding. According to chair Carol Dutra-Vernaci, Mayor of Union City, if the upcoming November Alameda Measure BB passes, that will at least provide enough money for staff to get started.