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City puts $5.4 million toward Caltrain extension to new Transbay Center

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“Preliminary engineering” and tunneling study paves (or digs) the way for long-delayed plan

A Caltrain on the tracks, coming toward the camera, with trees and an overpass in the background. Arun123

It looks like the city is finally attempting to get Caltrain to the new Transbay Transit Center. However, Tuesday’s unanimous vote by the San Francisco County Transportation Authority (a body made up of Board of Supervisors members) only aims to finance “preliminary engineering” and a study on the effects of tunneling on nearby streets.

Still, it’s a measurable step forward—an expenditure of nearly $5.5 million toward the oft-delayed plan. And all but $1.1 million or so of those funds going toward engineering expenses.

According to the resolution, the goal is:

A 1.3-mile Downtown Rail Extension (DTX) tunnel that extends Caltrain commuter rail from its current terminus at Fourth and King streets to the new Transbay Transit Center (TTC). It also completes the build-out of the below-grade train facilities at the TTC, a new underground station along the DTX alignment, an intercity bus facility, and provides the tracks and northern terminus for California’s future High-Speed Rail system.

All of this will require additional funding (an estimated $2.6 billion) and approval later.

Some fans of the extension proposal complain that the plan has been put on the back burner. “For five years we have futzed around about how to get the train downtown,” an attorney on the Transbay Community Advisory Committee complained during public comment, adding, “What’s before you is a big deal; the public and the media may not understand, but it is.”

Another train booster chided the lawmakers for “dallying for four months” over the vote.

“We need to maintain our commitment despite any threats from Washington,” said Peter Straus of the San Francisco Transit Riders, a reference to the loss of a key federal grant that endangered the Caltrain electrification plan, which could also stymie the extension.

Supervisor Aaron Peskin addressed the delays before the vote, saying, “I believe this commission has taken this allocation, a drop in the bucket in the grand scheme of what this project will cost, very seriously.”

He added, “Phase 1 has been a nightmare of cost overruns and delays. We want to go into Phase 2 with our eyes wide open.”

If all goes as planned, trains will be running to the new terminal by 2026.