High Speed Rail May Drive CalTrain Extension Downtown

Article published Summer 1996

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In June San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown announced his opposition to the downtown extension of CalTrain, citing high cost and disruption of businesses along the route. Brown said that he is not against the concept of a CalTrain extension. PR2000 believes that the mayor is mistaken about the disruption of neighborhoods during construction. The deep-bore alternative routing selected for the extension earlier this year would entail little disruption to neighborhoods.

Brown voiced his support for the extension at a press conference held by PR2000 last year. His announcement of his change in position probably stems from his support for the BART-SFO project. Although many officials publicly state that both the CalTrain extension and BART to SFO airport can receive federal funding through separate funding programs, it is widely understood by regional transportation insiders that this is not possible. Burlingame city councilmember Mike Spinelli reported last year that Transportation Secretary Frederico Peņa told the executive directors of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and SamTrans on April 21, 1995 that only one of the two extensions could receive federal funding because they were duplicate projects.

The most encouraging development for the CalTrain downtown extension comes from the California High Speed Rail Commission. The commission now strongly favors downtown San Francisco as the northern terminus of the proposed line linking northern and southern California. San Francisco supervisors serving on San Francisco Transportation Authority also voted in favor of designating San Francisco as the northern terminus at a June 17 meeting.

Such a route would use the CalTrain line to reach the city. The high speed rail commission's studies found that other terminal locations in the Bay Area would attract 500,000 fewer annual riders compared to downtown San Francisco. The high speed rail commission assumes that the cost of the CalTrain extension will be included in funding for the $10 to $30 billion capital costs for the entire high speed project.

More information on high speed rail in California can be found on the world wide web on www.transitinfo.org/HSR.

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Last updated: November 8, 1999

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