CalTrain to downtown, airport access: momentum lost

Article published in January 1997

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CalTrain downtown SF extension | Electrification of CalTrain

Efforts to extend CalTrain to downtown San Francisco and connect it with San Francisco international airport are now in the midst of delays lasting several months. Airport and CalTrain officials have given little explanation for the delays.

In contrast, BART's plans to extend from Colma to SFO airport and Millbrae have proceeded rapidly. As of this writing, the Federal Transit Administration is in the process of granting a full funding agreement to this project despite warnings from COST and other concerned parties that BART's environmental reports and ridership predictions contain major flaws. COST and two pro-rail organizations have taken legal action against BART and SamTrans over this. (See BART past the airport lawsuit article.)

BART has a much larger staff devoted to its extensions program compared to that of the Joint Powers Board (JPB, the agency responsible for CalTrain).

Significant progress was made on the extension of CalTrain to downtown San Francisco between 1993 and last January when the JPB selected the Transbay Terminal as the site for CalTrain's future terminus.

From there, a Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) was due for release by JPB staff in October. It has not yet been released. According to JPB staff, the Federal Transit Administration recently found specific problems in the DEIR and sent it back to the JPB. The latest JPB staff report does not disclose what these problems were. A revised DEIR is expected to be completed by late winter or early spring.

How to connect CalTrain to SFO airport, a goal pursued by many San Mateo County officials and transit activists, was the subject of a study completed in April of last year. This study identified two preferred alternatives for extending the soon-to-be-constructed airport people mover across the Bayshore Freeway to connect to CalTrain and future high speed rail.

A decision on the two alternatives by the Airports Commission was expected last June. Instead, the Commission has deferred the decision for several months. Last summer, the Commission stated that it needed more detailed ridership study results before it could make a decision. In addition, it has indicated that it will not make the decision until the full funding agreement for BART-SFO is finalized.

Your letters are needed!
Extending CalTrain to downtown SF and providing a direct connection between CalTrain and the SFO airport people mover are critical to the train's future. Only CalTrain can provide modern and convenient rail transit service for the entire Peninsula corridor (not just north of Millbrae) for the next 20-30 years--and only at a fraction of the cost of extending BART. Yet this fact seems to be ignored by most regional transportation decision-makers.

Letters to the Airports Commission should call for an extension of the people mover to a new CalTrain station close to airline terminals and an end to delays in this decision. San Francisco and San Mateo County residents: tell your Board of Supervisors that the CalTrain downtown extension is critically needed. Santa Clara County residents: tell the Transportation Agency Board to fund CalTrain electrification. (This is vital to increasing service frequency, cutting costs, noise and pollution.)

Letters on these matters to local newspapers and your member of congress are also important.

San Francisco Airports Commission
President Henry E. Berman
and members
Director of Airports, John L. Martin
San Francisco International Airport
San Francisco, CA 94128

Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board (agency responsible for CalTrain)
c/o SamTrans
1250 San Carlos Ave
P.O. Box 3006
San Carlos, CA 94070-1306

Board of Supervisors
City and County of San Francisco
401 Van Ness Ave.
San Francisco, CA 94102

Board of Supervisors
County of San Mateo
Hall of Justice and Records
401 Marshall St.
Redwood City, CA 94063

Dianne McKenna and members
Santa Clara County Transportation Agency Board
3331 N. First St.
San Jose, CA 95134-1906

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Last updated: November 18, 1997

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