Tearing down 280

This from SaveMuniSF

Here’s is an introduction to another oncoming land use/transportation use mess, predictably cooked up by SPUR, the Mayor’s office and the DCP. It comes on top of – or perhaps as part of – the Mayoral Task Force’s so-called transportation “plan” for San Francisco.

As you look through this, consider the possibility that the objective of SF’s planning tri-partite to knock DTX out of the New Starts running so Central Subway Phase III can be inserted in its place.

As noted in the daily rags, the latest SPUR/Gillian Gilette/DCP plan is to remove the northern end of I-280 and replace it with a beautifully-landscaped surface arterial (something on the order of the perpetually-congested Octavia extension of 101). One of the problems with this grandiose scheme is that it would dump freeway traffic onto a new surface arterial somewhere in the vicinity of 16th Street, thereby pre-empting the space now occupied by the Caltrain main line tracks.

If it were necessary to underground or otherwise change the trackage between the existing tunnel under Potrero Hill and Second and King, it would add at least $1 billion to the cost of DTX and at least 8 years to the schedule.
In the process this momentous change would overturn decisions that were studied, debated in public meetings, environmentally-cleared and approved by many agencies over a decade ago. As indicated, these late coming proposed changes risk losing DTX, especially now with George Miller gone and Nancy Pelosi significantly weakened.

Here’s the beginning of what’s wrong with idea:

First, it will dump northbound I-280 traffic onto SF surface streets much farther south.

Second, the new arterial would occupy the space now occupied by the Caltrain tracks, meaning that the tracks would have to be either expensively relocated or even more expensively undergrounded.

Third, there’s no money for removing the freeway, much less for building the surface-level replacement streets, much less for paying for relocating or undergrounding the railroad. (No doubt Metcalf has some vague idea in his head of paying for all this via the large-scale commercial development he envisions will come to that part of San Francisco. Unfortunately it is a virtual certainty that any such future proceeds would be eaten up paying for the new roadways, bicycle paths, tree linings, medians, parklets and other amenities deemed necessary to support the gleaming new development.

Most damaging of all is the signal such a program would send. The message would read that San Francisco now has other interests and consequently desires to delay DTX for a decade or more. If the city possessing the Downtown Terminal isn’t interested in bringing in the commuter trains, then who exactly from the outside would be?

As if the above weren’t bad enough they also want to move Caltrain’s vital 4th and King rail storage and staging area to some distant location, presumably south of San Francisco. This would significantly push up Caltrain’s operating costs, to the point where it would no longer make much sense for Caltrain to serve San Francisco County. There are two practical ways of handling Caltrain train storage and staging needs, neither one of which would require relocation and neither of which would blight Fourth Street or Mission Bay.

SPUR/CCSF’s arrival on the scene 15 years late with development proposals that threaten to overturn long standing DTX plans is no joke. Given the vigorous competition between States and cities for badly needed New Starts funding, this “playing around” with issues threatens to put DTX out of the running for New Starts funding which would mean no DTX for many decades. And that would be a big loss for San Francisco.

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