Dumbarton Policy Committee seeks project restart

At Friday’s Dumbarton Policy Committee at Union City City Council, the group of elected officials took steps toward restarting the stalled project, starting with the potential for  service between Redwood City and Menlo Park.   At the next meeting on May 29, staff will bring back a summary of the funding available to jumpstart the project, and the cost to complete the environmental review process.

Redwood City Council Member Diane Howard, who recently rejoined after an earlier Council term, summarized the meeting saying “this is the most refreshing conversation I’ve heard about this project in a long time.”

At the beginning of the meeting, the staff painted a scenario that was not optimistic.   The environmental review had been put on hold since there was not enough funding to complete the project across the bay, and a precondition for federal environmental review is having enough money to qualify for more federal funding. But after some persistent questioning from Chair Carol Dutra Vernaci of Union City and Menlo Park’s Kirsten Keith, staff clarified that California’s environmental review process doesn’t have the same condition; that a Redwood City to Menlo Park project probably wouldn’t need seek federal funding, and that it is possible to approve a smaller subsegment in an environmental review; and therefore the project could use available funding to restart a smaller initial project.

The motion to move ahead was supported by all but one of the policy committee members.  The Fremont representative opposed it.  Supporters including BART board member Tom Blalock. This is significant because most of the funding moved from the Dumbarton project went to the BART Silicon Valley project.

In public comment, Jillian Kilby, a graduate student at Stanford talked about research she has been doing about the potential to create a public-private partnership to fund the project, potentially including employers on the corridor such as Facebook and Google. Kilby  has experience implementing public-private transportation projects in Australia. m

Unlike previous sleepy meetings, the meeting was attended by supportive members of the public from both sides of the Bay.  Policy Advisory Committee members encouraged members of the public to support the project restart at the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and  the San Mateo County Transportation Authority.  We’ll post updates with new information and next steps.