An Open Letter to Aaron Peskin

Peskin3Dear Supervisor Peskin:

Last month the SF Board of Supervisors, acting as the SF County Transportation Authority (SFCTA), took back $9.6 million it had previously allocated to help pay for sending the Caltrain trains into SF’s new Salesforce Transit Center. According to the San Francisco Examiner the reason for this was to avoid paying for the “expansion planning” of the Transit Center. But the $9.6 million in question was not for expanding the Phase I Transit Center, it was for completing the preliminary engineering design of the Phase II Downtown Caltrain Extension Project (DTX). According to the Examiner the reason given for blocking the DTX funding was to hold the leadership of the Transit Center project (presumably meaning the Transbay Joint Powers Authority and Staff, and the SF County Transportation Authority’s own well-funded oversight staff) “accountable for alleged mismanagement of the $2.2 billion Transit Center”.

It appears that the charge of “mismanagement” stems from recent news accounts referring to Transit Center design errors and/or construction problems. It should be noted in this connection that the engineering firm engaged in the design of the DTX project had nothing to do with either the design or the construction management of the Salesforce Transit Center project.

Looking into the Phase I Salesforce Transit Center situation makes sense. Redoubling SFCTA oversight efforts to make certain that the $9.6 million is spent prudently and to good effect also makes sense. What does not make sense is disrupting the ongoing design of the Phase II DCX project by cutting off the funding until the Phase I problems are resolved to everyone’s satisfaction. Throwing another roadblock in the path of DTX is not the way to correct whatever in Phase I needs correcting. In fact, by itself, de-funding Phase II affects neither Phase I nor anyone associated with Phase I; all it does is further delay and increase the costs of the long awaited and long needed extension of passenger rail service into the new Transit Center.

You recently observed that when the new Salesforce Transit Center is served by commute trains as well as buses it will be regarded as one of the smartest public investments ever made in San Francisco. We agree. As evidenced by the overwhelming voter approval of San Francisco Prop H in 1999, it appears that the people of San Francisco also agree. It is in the interest of San Francisco, the Peninsula and the Region that the problems of Phase I be addressed without delaying or otherwise interfering with DTX.

Sincerely yours,

Gerald Cauthen,
President, Bay Area Transportation Working Group

  • P.S. This just in: The engineering firm engaged in DTX design is already shutting down and sending its key people elsewhere to work on other ongoing projects. TJPA sources say that delaying the Preliminary Engineering of DTX will increase costs by $17 million a month. And that’s without counting the long term or perhaps permanent loss of key engineering personnel and the substantial learning curves that will slow down every newcomer to the project.


Call or write to Mayor London Breed, Mark Benioff, Willie Brown and join BATWG.

This article was featured in Newsletter Issue 7. Click here to go back to the newsletter.