Largely supportive, full-house crowds gathered to hear updates, ask questions and make comments at the Dumbarton Rail meetings in Fremont, Redwood City, and Menlo Park, with a variety of local and regional political leaders in the crowd.
Your blogger attended the Menlo Park meeting in person at the Onetta Harris Senior Center in Belle Haven, and got reports from people who attended the Redwood City and Fremont meetings. The presenters from SamTrans, and their private partners – Facebook and Plenary, working together under the name Cross Bay Transit Partners – gave the same talk, and responded to questions and comments from the audience.
Patterns emerged among the many questions and comments, similar to the earlier meeting in Newark:
Residents who live near the corridor expressed concerns about noise, and wanted clean, non-polluting trains. Winsome Bowen of Facebook responded to these questions saying saying that a technology has not yet been chosen, but they are looking for solutions that will be clean and environmentally friendly,
Corridor neighbors wanted the project to provide benefits for local residents, not only for longer-distance commuters. In North Fair Oaks (unincorporated San Mateo County next to Redwood City), several residents were interested in a local station, which was an option proposed in earlier studies. The Cross Bay partners said that they would consider a North Fair Oaks option. Local residents also brought up the idea of a station near the Friendly Acres/Marsh Manor neighborhood in Redwood City a couple of miles from Facebook.
A number of residents at the West Bay meetings supported the opportunity for a bike/pedestrian trail alongside the train tracks (similar to the trail in Marin and Sonoma Counties that being built alongside the SMART train).
In Fremont, similarly, residents of the Centerville area were interested in a station, an option that had been called out in earlier studies.
Along with interest in stations, attendees mentioned concerns about land use – residents from lower-income communities along the corridor expressed concerns about potential gentrification and displacement. Some East Bay residents spoke about wanting the rail service to help attract more jobs to the East Bay.
On the West Bay side of the corridor, the train tracks cross several roads that are heavily trafficked highway access routes: University and Willow, with about 60,000 cars per day, and Marsh which sees over 30,000 cars per day. Middlefield Road and 5th Avenue in North Fair Oaks see less car traffic but heavy pedestrian use, and at-grade crossings will pose a safety risk. Residents were concerned about the at-grade crossings and interested in potential grade separations.
Audience members raised questions about funding. Dale Bonner of Plenary Group said that to construct the system would require a budget number starting with a B, perhaps $1-3 Billion; the financial analysis will create an estimate.
At the Fremont meeting, the Crossbay partners answered questions about possible service levels – the consortium is aiming for ~10 minute frequency during peak hours and hourly during off peak hours.
Transit supporters were eager to see the system developed with good connections: on the East Bay side with BART, ACE and Capitol Corridor; on the West Bay side with Caltrain, and potential bus connections to cities were many transbay commuters work, including Palo Alto, Mountain View and Sunnyvale. The East Bay connections would require a deal with Union Pacific about access to right of way the freight railroad owns: the Crossbay partners said they are talking with Union Pacific.
A few commenters expressed interest in having the bay crossing built as tunnel, instead of rebuilding the bridge. Proponents argued that a tunnel would reduce sea level rise risks, reduce impacts to wildlife, and potentially avoid some of the at-grade street crossings. However, it would be a challenge to get the project to consider a tunnel, because the Plenary/Facebook public/private partnership has been chartered by SamTrans, owner of the right of way, to consider options for the right of way that SamTrans owns, and SamTrans doesnâ€™t own land that would be needed to dig a tunnel.
There were a some skeptics of restoring Dumbarton Rail service. One resident expressed doubt about commuters choosing alternatives to driving, saying â€œyouâ€™ll get the guns out of Texas before Californians out of our cars.â€ A couple of others wanted to see the corridor converted fully to a pedestrian and bicycle train, following the â€œRails to Trailsâ€ model used for abandoned railways, rather than the “Rails and Trails” strategy used by SMART.
Overall, though a majority of comments were generally supportive, and wanting to see a project that had the most benefits with the fewest negative side effects.
Now, the Cross Bay Transit Partners have a lot of analysis and permit applications to work on, and the community will be awaiting information on the conclusions.
Thanks for the update!
Water is 35ft under the bridge, so that tunnel will need to dip at least 40ft.
While it’s undeniable RR Xings create some risk of crashes into suicidal (literally! … over 90% Caltrain deaths are intentional, so nothing related to “safety”) people and scofflaws who insist on blatantly violating the CA Vehicle Code, I’ll stipulate that the risk of _unintentional_ deaths or injuries is substantially less than at most any moderately busy intersection. But in our society, we seemingly still have a weird double-standard regarding trains and hold them to an unreasonably higher standard (and therefore level of concern and scrutiny) than any of the thousands of existing or proposed ordinary intersections that surround us. Consider the frequently expressed concern and worry over “gate downtimes” at RR Xings, often coupled with calls for $100-$200m “grade separations” before train service be allowed to start or increase … while the “red-light time” encountered at most any busy intersection dwarfs the “gate downtime” experienced at RR Xings in both frequency and length, there are no complaints or calls for grade separations. A train carrying hundreds typically blocks a crossing for under a minute, while the greater and more frequent “red-light time” at most any moderately busy intersection at best allows many dozen people in single-occupant vehicles to pass … and with greater risk of unintentional crashes, injuries or deaths.
Tunnel portals could (and likely would) be placed in the SamTrans-owned ROW, which is said to be 100-feet wide along much or most of its length. While it’s true RR Xings create some risk of crashes into suicidal (literally! … over 90% Caltrain deaths are intentional, so nothing related to “safety”) people and scofflaws who insist on blatantly violating the CA Vehicle Code, the risk of _unintentional_ deaths or injuries is substantially less than for most any ordinary intersection. But in our society, we seemingly still have a weird double-standard regarding trains and hold them to a far higher standard (and therefore level of concern and scrutiny) than any of the thousands of existing or proposed ordinary intersections that surround us. Consider the frequently expressed concern and worry over “gate down times” at railroad crossings, often coupled with calls for $100-$200m “grade separations” … while the “red light time” encountered at any ordinary busy intersection dwarfs the “gate downtime” experienced at RR Xings, there are no complaints or calls for grade separations. A train carrying many hundred riders blocks typically blocks a crossing for under a minute, while a red-light cycle at any moderately busy intersection occurs far more often and lasts as long or longer while maybe several dozen people in single occupant vehicles are able to pass.
It’s premature to claim there’s no right of way for a tunnel … especially if the portals are constructed on the SamTrans-owned ROW, which is said to be 100 feet wide. Supposing the tunnel portals necessitated a bit of extra ROW … that’s also hardly a deal-breaker. ROW acquisition, especially in small amounts, is a common and ordinary part of public transportation or highway infrastructure projects everywhere.
Note that according to SamTrans staff, the rail bridge is subject to a long-term lease with the State Lands Commission … and being across navigable waters of the US, must not block maritime traffic (regardless of how infrequent it might be).
Apologies for the inadvertently duplicated text in my prior comment. (Too bad there’s no edit or delete comment feature … else I’d fix it!)
@Martin: I’ve long heard talk of shallow water depths under the bridge … so what’s the source for your claim it’s 35 feet deep?