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Caltrain Ignores Dumbarton Rail Bike-Ped Path

SamTrans claimes that a 12-feet wide bike/ped path can’t fit into the 100-feet wide Dumbarton Rail right-of-way along with a busway and track tracks. Photo: B.I.K.A.S.

“The planning effort here was made possible by a generous grant from Facebook,” explained Caltrain Executive Director Jim Hartnett on September 7 of SamTrans’s draft Dumbarton Transportation Corridor Study, a visionary set of bus and rail transit services that could shuttle 23,300 daily riders across San Francisco Bay. “We’d not have been able to do this without that grant.”

The Dumbarton study aims to “enhance mobility, cost effectiveness, minimize environmental impacts, financial risk, maximize safety, and protect local communities from adverse impacts” of an expanded highway network and transit services and that would enable more people to travel across the Dumbarton Bridge and along the Dumbarton Rail tracks between Redwood City and Union City.

“We’ve all read all 500 pages,” joked Caltrain Board of Directors member and Redwood City City Council member Jeff Gee of the 267-page draft final report. “The appendices are even longer than the report.”

Board members Jeannie Bruins and Gillian Gillett admitted that they hadn’t read the report either.

“People who live around those arterials on both side of the Bay like to tell us that traffic has gotten a lot worse in the recent couple years,” reported SamTrans Planner Melissa Reggiardo. “Clearly an impact of the recent employment growth.”

Reggiardo laid out the cross-Dumbarton bus and rail services that could attract tens of thousands of new daily transit passengers and hopefully alleviate the persistent car traffic congestion in the area. Reggiardo suggested phasing the $1.3 billion Redwood City to Union City Dumbarton Rail project such that trains would initially only run between Redwood City and University Avenue rather than crossing the bay.

Highway and rail lines in the Dumbarton area. Image: SamTrans

Reggiardo admitted that SamTrans had simply ignored walking and bicycling in their traffic predictions, even as such calculations have become routine for bicycle and pedestrian consultants. SamTrans also assumed that overpasses would be need for people walking and bicycling to cross Marsh Road and Willow Road, rather than simple traffic signals. Using such clear incompetence the agency was able to bloat the gold-plated bike/ped path’s cost up to $60 million.

“Our regional travel demand model is not so great at estimating usage of a very localized bicycle/pedestrian path, and therefore, we didn’t feel comfortable directly comparing that path with our high-capacity transit options,” said Reggiardo.

The agency then simply declared there wouldn’t be enough space for a 12-feet wide mutli-use path within Dumbarton’s 100-feet wide right-of-way if two tracks and a busway were also built there. SamTrans hopes to build bus-only lanes along the Dumbarton tracks from University Avenue to Highway 101, with flyover ramps in both directions connecting to the highway.

But Bay Trail Alliance Director Andy Chow pointed to where it’s already been done: “South of downtown Seattle there is a busway, light rail tracks, as well as a bike-ped path, and that only took about 90 feet of right-of-way altogether,” explained Chow.

Directors Dave Pine and Jeannie Bruins inquired on the condition of the existing Dumbarton Rail bridge. “It’s not in great shape,” said Reggiardo, “and there’s not much of a difference [in cost] between a full reconstruction and a what we call a ‘rehab’.”

Board member Jeff Gee lamented that more highways hadn’t been built already to absorb all the automobile traffic. “I don’t really give a hoot about people complaining because this was predicted that this was gonna happen,” said Gee of today’s traffic congestion that he said was predicted in 1965 by a traffic report urging the extension of Bayfront Expressway from Marsh Road in Menlo Park to Whipple Road in Redwood City.

None of the Caltrain Directors even mentioned or questioned staff on the study’s recommendation to exclude a bicycle and pedestrian path along the Dumbarton Rail tracks from the project.

For a list of upcoming public meetings at which the Dumbarton Transportation Corridor Plan will be presented, click here.