This week's issue of the San Francisco Bay Guardian includes an editorial calling for construction of the Downtown Extension to the Transbay Terminal. It is based on an article by Steven T. Jones in the same issue that notes, among other things, that the "train box" remains unfunded and outside the plans. First, the Jones article:
Transportation planners say the train box, which is essentially the shell structure in which the train station would be built during the project's second phase, is very important both logistically and financially (doing it later could be very expensive and disruptive to the station's operation), particularly since the TJPA has secured little of the $3 billion needed for phase two....that source must be found by spring to be included in construction contracts.
Um...that's not good. The train box is a must.
The Bay Guardian editorial makes, as usual, some excellent points about why the DTX is so important to the success of high speed rail - and what some of the political obstacles are, namely the leadership of the Transbay Joint Powers Authority. From the editorial:
Building an adequate terminal for high-speed rail at its present location would cost at least $750 million, money that would be better spent funding the downtown extension....building the Transbay Terminal with no rail connection would be a disastrous waste of money — and waiting and hoping for more money later isn't a very good financing plan.
So if it's obvious that the Transbay Terminal needs the DTX to succeed, and that a Fourth and King terminus station isn't a good use of money, why is this even an issue? As the editorial explains, the leadership at the TJPA, specifically Maria Ayerdi-Kaplan, isn't doing a good job securing funding or even communicating with partners:
Ayerdi-Kaplan promised us, repeatedly, that there's no way the project will end up getting built without the facilities for rail in the basement.
But Quentin Kopp, a retired judge who heads the state's high-speed rail agency, has nothing but harsh words for Ayerdi-Kaplan and her operation. He insists that she hasn't been working with him and that none of the $10 billion in bond money approved in November for the project will go to extend the tracks beyond the existing Caltrain terminal at Fourth and King. In fact, Kopp is making noises about keeping the end of the line exactly where it is today....
Kopp has some legitimate gripes. Ayerdi-Kaplan, who is supposed to be building the station that will serve as the northern anchor for high-speed rail, has met with Kopp only once. She's going ahead with the project before she has any guarantees that even the framework for the underground station will be funded. And frankly, it's not going to work for the head of the Transbay Terminal project to remain at odds with the head of the high-speed rail authority.
It certainly sounds as if the TJPA needs to get its act together, and one hopes that Kopp and other members of the California High Speed Rail Authority have been trying to proactively work with Ayerdi-Kaplan and her staff to resolve these issues. Apparently she has been hiding behind PR person, Adam Alberti. I can see why Kopp has been making noise about using Fourth and King instead, as a way to force the TJPA back to the table.
Still, this seems to be a leadership issue most of all. San Francisco has a lot of political leaders who could help bring the parties together - Mayor Gavin Newsom, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer. Perhaps our federal officials can help provide funding for an infrastructure project ready to break ground. It's time for someone to step up and solve this issue before it gets worse with time and built-up enmity. As we've said before the DTX and the Transbay Terminal are essential to the HSR project's success.