Further analysis has shown that the planned high-speed rail station in the new Transbay Terminal would be obsolete within two decades, experts have warned and are seeking for a revision to the current plans.
Part of the concern is that of adequate capacity as it has been projected that the proposed station would not be large enough to accommodate half the passengers expected to be using the system by 2030. Also, the plan for a connection to Caltrain has been deemed as unfeasible from an engineering standpoint. "Three sets of engineers met and they concurred that the design for the station was inadequate and useless for high-speed rail," said Quentin Kopp, chairman of the High Speed Rail Authority.
The current plan comprises, one platform and two tracks for Caltrain and two platforms and four tracks for high-speed rail and with this, the High Speed Rail Authority now believes that the station would have to be able to handle 12 trains an hour, or one every five minutes which is not very feasible. Under that scenario, eight to 10 tracks would be required instead, officials said. This issue was only learned of by transit officials three weeks ago.
One idea being studied is whether a two-story underground train station would be feasible from engineering and funding standpoints.
This is not a problem that transportation officials want to have to deal with right now as they try to scramble to find solutions to ensurethe rail projects don't miss out on federal stimulus funds. California is the only state with a high-speed rail plan and funding and officials are seeing opportunities they never envisioned as President Obama's emergency funding bill contains an unprecedented $8 billion for high-speed and intercity rail projects. The President also indicated in his proposed budget last week that he would like to pump a further $1 billion annually over the next five years into such projects.
"I think we are well positioned to get these funds - unless we get in our own way," said Steve Heminger, executive director of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, a regional planning and funding agency.
As it stands, the project is behind schedule and suggestions have been made to speed up the process by commencing the project without the "train box," the skeleton of the underground train station. The idea is to build it later, when funding becomes available. But building the train box in the first phase could shave an estimated $100 million off the $490 million cost.
I had written an article "The Manhattanization of SF Part II" in August of last year in which I talked about the plans for this project and had since assumed that it was progressing towards groundbreaking but this new apparent impasse has surprised me. What is most troubling though is that no one group can seem to agree on anything here. Caltrain officials have raised concerns about the design pertaining to track alignment and slope but Transbay authorities claim that "at no time has Caltrain indicated that the rail design does not work for them." Yet, Michael Scanlon, executive director of the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board, which operates Caltrain just released a statement saying, "The current alignment and design is fatally flawed!" If they can't even agree to the seriousness of the problem, how can they begin to solve it?
Image obtained from: www.sfgate.com