SamTrans may partner with Facebook on Dumbarton rail


SamTrans may enter an exclusive negotiation process with Facebook to try to accelerate the development of the Dumbarton corridor project, Menlo Park City Manager Alex McIntyre informed the Menlo Park City Council at its meeting Jan. 16.

SamTrans spokesman Dan Lieberman confirmed the agency is "exploring a public-private partnership to expedite Dumbarton corridor improvements."

"This caught us somewhat by surprise," Mr. McIntyre told the council. "We may or may not have anything to do with it, because it's not our jurisdiction specifically, but it is in our town. I will make it clear we have an interest in this as it progresses."

When asked what that means, Mr. McIntyre responded, "I think it means they're going to build out the train system and operate it, or somehow be the funding source for the construction and operation of the rail solution."

The topic was raised at a Jan. 4 meeting in remarks by SamTrans CEO Jim Hartnett to the SamTrans board. He was not forthcoming with details, but told the board to prepare to discuss the matter at its upcoming February meeting.

Facebook previously funded a $1.2 million study by SamTrans, the San Mateo Transit District, exploring a range of actions that could ease transbay traffic congestion along the Dumbarton corridor, both along the vehicle bridge and the now-defunct rail bridge. SamTrans adopted the findings of that study in December.

"In adopting the Dumbarton corridor plan," Mr. Hartnett told the board, "I think there was an implicit recognition that in order to bring this project forward, something different might have to occur – that we might not approach it in the typical delivery method."

"We recognized and hoped we'd attract partners or a partner to help us implement the vision laid out in the plan. And we have," he said. "Facebook came to us to have a discussion about how we might together as partners move forward with the rail corridor side of the study."

So far, he said, talks with the company have been "preliminary yet substantive."

“As you know, in January 2016 Facebook contributed $1 million toward a study to explore transportation improvements along the Dumbarton corridor,” said Facebook Corporate Communications Director, Anthony Harrison. “Since we are committed to helping reduce traffic congestion, we continue to partner with SamTrans to explore ways of improving traffic and transit options on the Dumbarton corridor.”

According to Mr. Hartnett, the next steps to move forward with the project are to complete environmental work and detailed studies of the corridor, and analyze what it would cost to improve the bridge and make transbay rail service happen.

The study recommended running buses and a rail line along the Dumbarton corridor, but at the insistence of the city of Menlo Park and possibly other stakeholders, SamTrans is also exploring the feasibility of adding a bike and pedestrian-friendly path linking the Redwood City Caltrain station to the Dumbarton Bridge.

Mr. Hartnett said that the three principles he hopes to use in his negotiations with the company are that SamTrans should prioritize "the public benefit and the public good" in building the project; that the project should be done at no risk to the district; and that the project enable the district to "maximize the value" of its assets namely, create a revenue stream for the district.

The partnership could be first of its kind in the country, he said.


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5 people like this
Posted by sill the right-of-way
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 25, 2018 at 12:35 pm

SamTrans/Caltrain needs money to modernize, electrify and grade separate their commuter rail line from San Francisco the San Jose. SamTrans/Caltrain can raise the money they need by selling the Dumbarton right-of-way to Facebook. SamTrans/Caltrain have never had any interest in working on the Dumbarton rail corridor.

The new commuter line, from Stockton to San Francisco, should be operated by ACE. Being from Redwood City, Jim Hartnett will try to force ACE to terminate in Redwood City, but ACE must be allowed to use Caltrain's right-of-way. Commuters at stations from San Francisco to Redwood City will understand the purple train goes to Stockton while the red train goes to San Jose (and Gilroy).

17 people like this
Posted by Citizen
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 25, 2018 at 8:07 pm

The cost of this project could run in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Facebook gives just enough to create an interest. We are not dumb Facebook. Put up the whole amount to fund the project. Your company is the major benefit. When are your employees going to get tired of the traffic problems on Willow and Marsh Roads. Everyone that drives during the hours of 7:00 Am to 10:00Am and 2:30Pm to 8:00Pm on both roadways are tired too. Any solution?

3 people like this
Posted by Response to novel suggestion
a resident of another community
on Jan 25, 2018 at 10:21 pm

@sill the right-of-way

You bring up an interesting idea that I have never heard before. However, you have to consider that Caltrain's right-of-way between San Francisco and Redwood City is largely only two tracks. If you propose running ACE trains there during commute hours, then space restrictions means that you'll have to restrict the number of trains heading to points south, including the second, third, fourth, and seventh largest stations in terms of weekday ridership (Palo Alto, San Jose, Mountain View, and Sunnyvale). I don't think Caltrain would agree to this plan to reduce service to those areas, nor should they.

The only way to run ACE trains north along the Caltrain ROW without decreasing level of service is to four-track the entire route, and I don't believe peninsula communities are supportive of that idea at all.

2 people like this
Posted by Robert S. Allen
a resident of another community
on Jan 26, 2018 at 2:38 pm

Extend Tri-Valley BART along I-580 to an ACE transfer station at Greenville in Livermore. With ACE planning Central Valley extensions, this connection would let many Trans-Altamont commuters either transfer to BART or continue to the Silicon Valley.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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