Instead of moving the project forward, the Region backpedals. The recently-formed “Executive Steering Committee” is comprised of staff representatives from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), Transbay Joint Powers Authority, SF County Transportation Authority, SF Mayor’s Office, Peninsula Joint Powers Authority (Caltrain) and the California High Speed Rail Authority. They and their consultants have returned to reviewing such long-settled matters as the routing of the extension, an ill-conceived and unneeded Pennsylvania Avenue subway, the number of tracks leading into the Salesforce Transit Center (already studied and resolved twice) and the possible interface in the distant future between the Salesforce terminal and a second subaqueous rail tube, if one is ever built.
All this for a project approved by all relevant local, regional, State and federal agencies and jurisdictions over 12 years ago that received its State and federal environmental clearance in 2009.
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When launching major infrastructure improvements such as DTX, the usual practice is to consider and evaluate viable alternatives, select the alternative judged to be the most practical and cost-effective and then get on with designing and building it. A competent design team would take into account the possible effects of future projects. But in recent years the Bay Area and particularly San Francisco have carried concern over the future to extremes. If the DTX process as practiced during the last six years was the usual way of doing things, the evolution of cities would have ground to a halt centuries ago.
With their obsession on “covering all the bases to save money” planners and meddling politicians have in fact greatly increased the cost of the project, estimated by one design group to be $200 million a year (six years so far and climbing). In the process these planners are risking putting DTX out of the running for forthcoming State or federal funding. Six years ago, DTX was Number One in line for capital funding. However the project is now being challenged by a number of lesser but faster-moving and more effectively-administered projects such as San Jose’s BART extension, the Diridon Station Expansion, a slow speed/low ridership rail line extending eastward from BART’s East Dublin Station into San Joaquin County, two or three other San Francisco projects of questionable merit, and SMART’s astonishing plan to extend its low ridership/high cost commuter rail line 22 additional miles to Cloverdale.
Seemingly oblivious to this competition, DTX planners continue to engage in seemingly never-ending posturing over possible future scenarios and other assorted “what if’s”, while their project sits. Things have gotten so bad that it is no longer assured that the money needed to extend Caltrain 1.3 miles to join 10 other rail lines and over 40 bus lines in downtown San Francisco will ever be forthcoming. Twenty years ago, Nancy Pelosi and Dianne Feinstein were strong and effective early supporters of the TTC/DTX project. It is hoped that they will again step up to the plate and set things straight before it’s too late. Write them.