At the June board meeting for the Transbay Joint Powers Authority, staff presented updated estimates for the Downtown Extension of Caltrain tracks to Transbay terminal showing cost increases to $4B, up from $3B back in 2008. The Transbay Center is expected to open in November 2017 as a large and fancy bus station, with no firm plans to connect rail service to the downtown station.
Connecting the tracks to the Financial district would be expected to add many more Caltrain riders, since there are more jobs near Transbay than the rest of the line combined. The Downtown Extension would logically also add substantially to High Speed Rail ridership, since passengers would have convenient access to more SF destinations and much better transit connections than at 4th and King.
New items in the scope of the project based on reviews in the last few years include the pedestrian connection to Embacadero Muni/BART and a tunnel stub to allow for a future phase tunnel, which would eliminate the need for an underpass to grade-separate 16th and 7th streets. About half of the cost estimate increase is increased estimates for future cost escalation, and increased contingency setasides. Right of way purchases haven’t been re-estimated yet; which would seem likely to add more cost increases.
In this latest estimate, the project could be built by 2026 if funding is lined up by 2020. The largest share of funding in the latest estimate would come from passenger surcharges for the one-seat ride into downtown San Francisco – an extra $2 to $3 for Caltrain and $8 to $10 for High Speed Rail. Unfortunately, much of the funding that had been designated earlier for the Downtown Extension has been all used up in cost over-runs for building the station, for which costs nearly doubled since construction started in 2008.
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