May 11, 2004 > Dumbarton Rail Corridor Moves Forward
Dumbarton Rail Corridor Moves Forward
Policy Advisory Committee Meets to Plan Future Rail Expansion
The Policy Committee of the Dumbarton Rail Corridor met on Thursday, April 29th in the City of Union City Council Chambers to elect officers (Councilmember Jim Hartnett of the City of Redwood City was elected Chair and Mayor Mark Green of the City of Union City as Vice Chair), listen to a project overview and organize to develop an action plan for extending rail service from the East Bay across the Bay to the Peninsula. Affected agency personnel were on hand to listen and discuss preliminary work preceding construction.
The completed project will create new connections and shift freight rail traffic with new or improved passenger stations in the Tri-Cities and Menlo Park. It is designed to reduce freight operations in Fremont/Centerville and increase reliability and flexibility and safety of passenger rail traffic.
Designed initially to assist commuter traffic, morning service is planned from the Union City "Intermodal" station through Fremont (Centerville) with a stop at a Newark Station (Willow Street) before crossing the Dumbarton "Swing" Rail Bridge to a Menlo Park/East Palo Alto Station, then connecting to the CalTrain tracks in Redwood City. The proposed operating plan includes three trains that will turn north to San Francisco and three others south to continue along the CalTrain corridor to San Jose. In the evening, the schedule will be reversed. A preliminary study shows an average reduction in travel times of 15 minutes. Connections will be coordinated with ACE and Capitol Corridor trains.
Following the meeting, TCV spoke with Peter Gertler, Program Manager, Dumbarton Bridge Rail Corridor (DRC) and Howard Goode, Deputy Executive Manager, San Mateo County Transportation Authority.
TCV: What is the function of the DRC Policy Committee?
Goode: The purpose of the committee is to be a focus; to coordinate between the agencies that are part of this project. Let me just check off what those are. I'll start with my own agency, which is the San Mateo County Transportation Authority, and then in Alameda County you have what's called ACTIA, which is the Alameda County Transportation Improvement Agency. Also involved is the Alameda County Congestion Management Agency, which is also located up in Oakland. In addition to that, we have from Santa Clara County, the Valley Transportation Authority which has put some funding into this. Finally, we have the Capitol Corridor Agency which operates the Capitol Corridor trains from Sacramento into San Jose.
Each of these parties, to varying degrees, has programmed money for this project and I think, in all cases now have actually contributed some funding to the engineering work that's gone on so far. As we go forward, we want to make sure that the policy representatives from all those agencies are involved in determining exactly what shape this project will take and how it will be implemented.
TCV: Will the construction be done in sequential segments, or is each segment taken as a separate project?
Goode: There's the potential to do the project in phases because some parts of it, for example, the portion in Union City could go sooner than some other parts of the project, particularly the bay-crossing portion.
TCV: If that did occur, would service begin on that short segment?
Gertler: From the Dumbarton corridor perspective, you wouldn't be able to implement any real service because the only segment we're talking about is basically from Industrial Boulevard in Hayward down to Shinn Street in Fremont. If you were able to do that section, you wouldn't really have a viable Dumbarton service but you would start to lay the groundwork for those improvements.
What you would do is provide some improvements to the Capitol Corridor, which now could have what they call a cross platform transfer at the Union City Station so there's a direct connection to BART. For the Dumbarton corridor, in terms of a service, you really need to have the bridge. You need to get across the Bay, otherwise there really isn't a viable service.
Goode: Completing that segment, as Peter said, will improve the Capitol's operation, but it wouldn't result in new service across the Dumbarton. That can't happen until all of the segments are done.
TCV: The entire project needs to be completed before you can operate rail service. Correct?
Goode: Across the Bay, yes.
TCV: Would any service be available?
Gertler: What needs to happen are what we call network improvements. In order for the Dumbarton service to work, we are going to have to remove some freight trains from the corridor and provide better access at Union City between trains and BART. Even though you wouldn't have Dumbarton rail corridor service, you would start to provide some of the network improvements that you need to do in the background, getting some of the freight trains off of the Fremont Centerville area, providing platform access at Union City, all necessary for providing Dumbarton service. Nobody has decided that that's the first stage, but those are some necessary steps and may be a phase to go first.
TCV: Will the average citizen commuting from the East Bay notice much until it the project is completed?
Goode: Probably not.
TCV: What about connections with CalTrain and SamTrans? Is that what this is designed to do? Someone from Union City could get on at Union City, come across the bay and connect up with CalTrain?
Goode: Absolutely. The Dumbarton train will actually continue along the CalTrain line. Let's say, for example, you want to go to Palo Alto. You get on the Dumbarton service at Union City, it goes across the bay and connects with the CalTrain line and turns south on the CalTrain line and takes you to Palo Alto.
TCV: How about north to San Francisco?
Goode: Part of the service would go up to San Francisco as well.
Gertler: The idea is that six trains would leave Union City in the morning and after they cross the bridge on to the West Bay, three of the trains would turn north and go to San Francisco and three of the trains would go south and go to San Jose. And it would be integrated into the overall CalTrain service.
TCV: Where is the East Bay terminus?
Goode: The East Bay terminus would be the Union City BART station.
Gertler: The work at Industrial Boulevard in Hayward is more of what we call network improvements. In order to have a transfer between BART and rail, either Dumbarton or Capitol, you have to do this improvement at Industrial Boulevard. There's no station there, and no passenger service in Hayward. Track improvement is necessary in Hayward to get the passenger trains which are currently operating on one track over to another track so they could stop at the Union City station.
TCV: In the East Bay, there will be a Union City station and a Centerville station, and a Newark station?
TCV: On the peninsula side, will there be another station prior to joining Caltrain tracks?
Goode: Yes. There would be one in Menlo Park at Sun Microsystems.
TCV: Is this designed to run just during the peak hours?
Goode: As the initial service is proposed, it would be just during the peak hours. However, I think something that is important to note is that the infrastructure or the construction improvements that we would be making here would allow additional service hours and additional service in the future.
Gertler: Another important thing is direction. There are only westbound trains from Union City in the morning, and then there are only eastbound trains in the afternoon from either San Jose or San Francisco.
TCV: Is there any concept of what this might cost for somebody to ride the train?
Gertler: What we did, for analysis purposes, is assumed the CalTrain zonal fare system. The cost of your ticket depends on how many zones or what zone you're going to. So, we just carried that same zonal system over to the Dumbarton corridor, but I think the average fare presented was $2.07, for an average trip length of about seventeen and a half miles which is essentially, let's say, Union City to Palo Alto.
TCV: Will the Union City Intermodal station be an integrated station or a separate facility?
Gertler: It would be an integrated station. Currently, there's the Union City BART station, where there is only BART. Union City is undergoing a study right now and have some money to upgrade that station so that in the future, if we can get the trains there. Commuter trains, either Capitol Corridor or the Dumbarton service will be at ground level.
TCV: Have you looked at parking considerations for this?
Gertler: We definitely considered parking. Parking is often a controversial issue. You can control parking through different policy measures, and that's usually a local issue with a local jurisdiction, how much they want to restrict parking because obviously has effects. Without us trying to get into that morass of each of the individual jurisdictions trying to figure out what their individual parking policies are and so forth.
We were able to estimate what we call unconstrained, assuming that anybody can drive to the station and park, if there would be enough parking. We came up with a parking demand which was fairly significant, but we know that it can be regulated somehow between local policy and measures. What we did, to be fair for the four stations - Union City, Centerville, Newark, and Menlo Park, - was assume that we would provide up to about 80 different parking spaces as part of the overall station plan. While, in some cases, that may be under demand, further discussions with the cities and the local jurisdictions will determine how much additional parking they want. That's up for discussion.
TCV: Where is the heaviest use of the DRC going to come from?
Gertler: We estimate about 960 boarding at Union City, Fremont about 400, Newark about 600, Menlo Park about 630. The largest station destination is going to be Palo Alto.
TCV: Will the DRC coordinate with ACE and Capitol Corridor traffic?
Gertler: We tried to focus on a convenient connection between the Capitol Corridor and the ACE services at Fremont, Centerville. People coming in from Livermore could transfer at Fremont, Centerville and have a short wait time to get on the next Dumbarton Rail Corridor. If you're coming in from Livermore and you need to get to Palo Alto, which today you can't do, there would be a very convenient connection at Fremont.
TCV: Who owns the DRC trains?
Goode: That remains to be determined. The cost of that rolling stock is included in the estimated cost of the project.
TCV: Are measure 2 funds deposited into a fund called the Dumbarton Rail Corridor?
Goode: In the regional measure 2 there is a specific project for the Dumbarton rail. We have, last week, just submitted the initial application for bridge toll funding for the project.
Gertler: There is cooperation between all the different agencies represented by the policy board. However, there is no agreement, no sort of institutional arrangement, what we call typically a joint powers agreement between all these agencies about who's going to own, run, and operate and maintain the Dumbarton Rail Corridor.
TCV: So that's still to be determined?
Gertler: It's a very significant issue that this policy board will have to grapple with. That's a very important next step for them to define and figure out. What the logo is on the train? Who is operating it? Who owns and maintains the right of way? Those are all very important, significant questions.
TCV: The Dumbarton rail bridge is described as having a "swingspan" what is that?
Gertler: It's a type of moveable bridge. Instead of a drawbridge that goes up and down, it just moves horizontally. For the past ten, fifteen years it's been permanently open.
TCV: The timeline projects service in 2010. What is in the works now?
Gertler: We've done some of the engineering already and the next step is to do some of the environmental work. We're right in the midst of figuring out what environmental work we need to do.
TCV: There is an indication of an "East Bay Segment Startup" in 2008. What does that mean?
Gertler: The big piece between Industrial Boulevard and Shinn Street could be up and operating by that time, which is not the Dumbarton Rail Corridor service but capacity improvements and other infrastructure, network improvements that are necessary as background to be able to run Dumbarton service.
Goode: Another facet or aspect of this particular project which has intrigued me is that we are recycling a rail line that's been around for almost one hundred years - originally built for freight purposes but now we believe can be useful for moving people in the Bay Area.
TCV: How will freight traffic be diverted? It has to go somewhere.
Gertler: What we're proposing is a new Niles bridge which will not carry Dumbarton rail service. This bridge will provide a new connection from the Niles junction to what is known as the old S.P. line or what is currently known as the Niles subdivision. This will provide a new freight connection for freight trains coming south from Oakland or coming east from the valley and heading toward Oakland, versus having to go through the Fremont Centerville area. That will provide an opportunity to eliminate traffic in the Fremont Centerville area.
TCV: Does that impact the Newark area as well?
Gertler: Yes, Freight trains from Oakland come down what they call the coast line, it's pretty confusing without looking at a map, but there's essentially four rail lines between Hayward and Fremont and the one that's most west, toward the coast, is called the coast line. That's where the freight traffic from the port of Oakland comes down what we call the coastline and if it's going over for transcontinental service or it's going over to San Joaquin Valley, it makes a hard left turn through Newark and it goes through the Fremont Centerville Area and it then it goes out Niles Canyon and into Livermore Valley. We will be able to eliminate that path and move all that traffic over to the most easterly rail alignment.
TCV: That'll make a big difference.
Gertler: Right. It does a lot of things. One is environmental impact to the local community and to freight crossing safety, but it also provides a great improvement in capacity for the U.P. because it actually frees up a lot of space for them, so they could run more trains. It is also a more direct line between Oakland and the Niles junction.
Currently one of their biggest issues of the Capitol Corridor service is reliability and on-time train service. The greatest impact to on-time train service is freight traffic.. By removing this traffic, we can improve or reduce the delays for Capitol Corridor service and improve reliability and travel time.
TCV: That sounds like a win for everybody.
Gertler: I hope so.
TCV: When can we expect to hear more on this?
Gertler: There's a technical advisory committee meeting and June, and the next policy committee meeting, we haven't set up a date yet, but it's probably going to be late July.
DRC Policy Committee Members
Tom Blalock - Capitol Corridor JPA
Councilmember David Casas - City of Los Altos
Mayor Mark Green - City of Union City
Supervisor Scott Haggerty - Alameda County
Councilmember Jim Hartnett - City of Redwood City
Board Member Breene Kerr - Santa Clara Valley TA
Councilmember John McLemore - City of Santa Clara
Councilmember Alan Nagy - City of Newark
Mayor Donna Rutherford - City of East Palo Alto
Laura Stuchinsky - Silicon Valley Manufacturing Group
Mayor Pro Tem Mickie Winkler - City of Menlo Park