DTX Project Remains Entangled in SFCTA Maul

Here are excerpts from a dialogue that has been ongoing between the SFCTA and BATWG since the October 22, 2019 SFCTA hearing. It illustrates BATWG’s current assessment of the situation:

Excerpts from BATWG’s letter dated October 26th to the SFCTA:

At the October 22, 2019 SFTCA hearing much was made of 2028, the year by which the trains would be allegedly be carrying passengers to and from the Salesforce Transit Center. [Based upon the delays that have already occurred and that are continuing to occur], 2030 or later would be more realistic.

In any event there are two dates of far more immediate importance that were not mentioned on 10/22.

First, when will [the SFCTA let] the Preliminary Engineering and PE cost estimating work be restarted? While [we] believe that Mark Zabeneh is ready and able to do the work we realize that he may be cashiered, unfairly in our view. So the question becomes, when will someone be given the authority and funding needed to commence preliminary engineering? When will the SFCTA get serious about restarting the DTX project?

Empty Transit Center Train Terminal Sits Waiting…

Second, when will a bonafide preliminary engineering cost estimate be available for all to see? Given the uncertainties and confusion created by the past and continuing delays, the potential funding sources have understandably adopted a wait-and-see attitude. Clearly defining the project is an essential first step to restarting the project, and that requires a completed PE.

Excerpts from a subsequent exchange of letters between SFCTA and BATWG:

 SFCTA: Both the schedule and budget will be revised and validated by “Robust Risk Assessment”

BATWG: The best “risk assessment” is performed by competent designers proceeding carefully….followed by disciplined checkers possessed of the right experience and backgrounds. Putting the onus on a group of “high-powered experts” coming in for a brief spell, often long after the fact, is in itself highly risky.

SFCTA: We are working with TJPA to develop a scope and budget to restart project development. It includes: 1) project phasing analysis; 2) engineering to between 15% and 30% (depending on the item) to a level that will allow for a reliable cost estimate; 3) refinement of ROW acquisition plan; 4) industry outreach; 5) project delivery analysis; 6) bottom-up cost estimate; 7) new schedule ; and 8) Risk Assessment, among others. We hope to take the allocation to our Board in December for work to start in January.

BATWG: Most of the above items are not prerequisites to Preliminary Engineering, they are part of Preliminary Engineering. None of them poses a legitimate reason for putting more roadblocks in front of PE. Each of the 8 items will be taken in turn.

  1.  “project phasing analysis”. Why? Without a major increase in budget it’s unlikely that the phasing worked out over a decade ago will change
  2. “engineering to between 15% and 30% (depending on the item) to a level that will allow for a reliable cost estimate”. Fine, but what’s the holdup?!
  3. “refinement of ROW acquisition plan”. If any is needed it would be part of PE
  4. ”industry outreach”. Since the rail vehicles are being acquired by the Peninsula JPB and since the JPB has already signed off on both the terminal configuration and the alignment, [what is the significance of more industry outreach]?  In any event, such “outreach” is…or at least usually is…part of PE
  5. ”project delivery analysis”. Why should this affect the timing of the PE?
  6. ”bottom-up cost estimate”. No one will be able to credibly produce any kind of a cost estimate beyond what is already available, until qualified cost engineers have analyzed a 30% (or preferably 35%) PE design.
  7.  “new schedule”. Until the tinkering stops there will always be a need for new schedules
  8. ”risk assessment”. By whom? Would this be done before PE resumed? If so, why? What risks would be assessed?

SFCTA: “We hope to take the allocation to our Board in December for work to start in January. In parallel, the Integrated Project Team will be working on repositioning the project, developing a funding strategy and plan, evaluating recommendations for project governance, and managing stakeholder involvement, among others.” 

BATWG: What kind of repositioning? How would this “repositioning” affect Preliminary Engineering? The best and fastest way to form the basis of “a funding strategy and plan” would be to produce the needed Preliminary Engineering documents and PE cost estimate. How long will it take to evaluate recommendations for “project governance”? Who will do the recommending? Who will do the evaluating? managing stakeholder involvement”…….it appears that the existing DTX project team, and Transit Center team before it, have been working with the affected “stakeholders” for years.

SFCTA: Our goal (ambitious as it is) is to have a clearly-defined project, with bona fide cost estimate and schedule, all validated by a robust Risk Assessment, by the summer of 2021, and shovel ready six to nine months later.

BATWG: Getting to shovel readiness by late 2021 or early 2022 would require a complete upheaval in the Bay Area’s normal way of doing things.