At last week’s SamTrans board meeting, the agency announced that planning for the Dumbarton Corridor would continue. Plenary Group will pick up responsibility to lead the planning to choose a preferred alternative. Facebook will contribute funding to this phase and participate, but will no longer contribute funding beyond this planning phase. Plenary Group is the private investor and developer that Facebook had originally chosen to work on a public-private partnership to develop Dumbarton Rail.
The process will stop short of conducting an environmental impact report needed to make the project eligible for construction.
In the interest of lowering costs, one of the options that will be considered is Plenary’s Glydways group rapid transit technology. In San Jose’s recent consideration of new technology options for its airport connector and the Stevens Creek Corridor, San Jose concluded that “[Plenary Gydways] does not yet have a physical test facility, and feasibility of vehicle storage was not fully addressed. Therefore, the technology has great uncertainty regarding readiness and cost.”
The next phase of the study will also consider stations and land use development options that could help provide better support and funding for the project.
Decoupling planning from environmental review is potentially a good thing – planning can focus on selecting the best project options. The environmental process focuses on mitigating harms rather than maximizing benefits.
With this path forward, SamTrans is sending a letter to the Metropolitan Transportation Commission supporting inclusion of this project into the PlanBayArea regional transportation plan, which would make the project eligible for regional/state/federal funding following environmental approval.
This next upcoming phase, over the next 6-8 months, will consider mode options and conduct more public outreach, so stay tuned for opportunities to participate and weigh in.