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March 22, 2005 > Newark Plans To Accommodate Dumbarton Commuter Rail Service

Newark Plans To Accommodate Dumbarton Commuter Rail Service

One of the most far-reaching projects slated for the Tri-Cities is the creation of the Dumbarton Commuter Rail. These trains will link Union City, Fremont and Newark with rail service between San Francisco and San Jose crossing the bay near the existing Dumbarton Bridge.

At the present time, there is no passenger rail station in Newark. According to Public Works Director Dennis Jones, preparation for such a station is in a preliminary stage. He said that plans call for "a platform with cover" for the Willow Street (at Thornton) station in Newark. Initially, a parking lot for approximately 70 vehicles is anticipated although there is high interest in expanding this capability since when the rail operation reaches full operation, estimates are for approximately 600 station boardings and alightings in Newark. Jones said that "although we are very interested in expanding the parking lot, we are cognizant of the budget and understand that everyone is probably going to get a little less than they want. The most important thing is to get the service into place."

Mr. Jones and Newark Civil Engineer Peggy Claassen spoke with TCV about Newark's plans for the Dumbarton Rail Service.

TCV: Union City is concentrating on high density housing near their Intermodal Station. Does Newark plan similar development near their station?

Jones: At this time, we have not changed our General Plan. Surrounding areas are designated for low density residential and most of the undeveloped land as commercial/light industrial. This was, if you remember, the original site for the Ohlone Newark Campus, which we thought ideal situated near a transit center. That center will also be a hub for our bus system.

TCV: Who will use the Newark station?

Jones: The Newark station will draw drivers from Newark and parts of Fremont. Bus connections with the Newark station may be easier from some parts of Fremont as well.

1. Claassen: People from Ardenwood, for example, will probably find our station more convenient than traveling to the Centerville station.

TCV: How does Newark plan to deal with the impact of additional traffic in the area?

Jones: We are aware of the future impact on our infrastructure. Newark was THE proponent for this project. Our mayor [David Smith] made a presentation to the ACTA (Alameda County Transit Authority) Board to start the project years ago. The reason was that we were suffering from the backup of the Dumbarton Bridge. During the late '90s, the backup of the bridge stretched from the toll plaza to Jarvis and Spruce. There has to be another way to get across the bay without using the bridge.

Our expectation is that a lot of that traffic that has been impacting our roads, already in the queue, will be going to the rail station to park instead. As we provide an outlet for these people, pressure on the toll plaza will be relieved. During the present economic recession, the bridge backup has declined, but as the economy strengthens, the problem will return.

TCV: Will the station be manned?

Jones: We are not anticipating staffing the platform at this time, but the city may want to expand, improve and enhance it over time. There will probably be some automated ticket dispensing although that level of detail has not been worked out yet. Right now it will be "bare bones" but functional.

Claassen: We see that there is a limited amount of money and it is important to get the infrastructure in first; enhancements will come later. This is a regional project that is also significant for each of the local agencies. Everyone needs to step back and realize that we need to get the trains running and then look at enhancements instead of taking out funding for one particular project.

TCV: What future planning is being done for this station?

Jones: We have years to devote to this. It is estimated that it will be during the years 2010 to 2012 when the Dumbarton Rail Service reaches full operation. At this point in time, we are just trying to make sure the EIR (Environmental Impact Report), preliminary engineering and estimates are refined so we know how much money we have to deal with. Concurrent with that will be a very aggressive city program to evaluate the General Plan and zoning. In five years, we could have some significant changes of all those documents that are due for an update in the not-too-distant future [year 2007].

TCV: When will the General Plan be updated?

Jones: I believe in 2007. It will have to recognize the full nature and extent of the changes based on the decision of the council and community. If they decide to make changes they could include high or medium density housing, changes in the commercial/industrial zoning or the possibility of an employment center. If this dovetails with ACE (Altamont Commuter Express), this not only becomes a commuter station across the bay, but a destination of its own for employment activities.

TCV: When will the city council begin to discuss the Dumbarton Rail Service?

Jones: We will begin to interject change and evolution to the General Plan starting in 2007. Council is aware of this and the location of the station. Councilmember [Alan] Nagy has been very involved and serves on the Dumbarton Rail Policy Committee.

TCV: When will people see construction associated with this new service?

Jones: Probably in three or four years.

Claassen: It is important to realize that there are many agencies involved in this. There will have to be many agreements in place to outline how this will happen. Phasing is significant - what part is built first, second, etc. - as well as environmental requirements. This will take a minimum of two years. This project presents us with a lot of opportunities. It is a win-win situation for Newark.

Jones: Everyone involved sees a common goal regardless of other interests. We have to get the backbone of the service in place and then look at enhancements. We have to live within our budget.

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