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November 29, 2005 > Dumbarton Rail Policy Committee Narrows Choices

Dumbarton Rail Policy Committee Narrows Choices

An "Executive Summary" summarizing the findings of the third technical memorandum to be prepared for Environmental Phase I of the Dumbarton Rail Corridor (DRC) was presented to the Dumbarton Rail Policy Committee on November 15th. A detailed evaluation of bus alternative and four rail alternatives were developed including travel demand analysis, cost estimates and capacity analysis of four rail alternatives.

Actions are based on the following assumptions from previous technical memoranda over the past six months. Service will consist of six daily westbound trains originating in Union City and stopping at Fremont (Centerville), Newark (Willow Street), Menlo Park (Willow Street), then converge with the existing Caltrain line near Redwood City. Three trains would continue south to San Jose and three would travel north to San Francisco. The reverse path would be used during the peak afternoon/evening commute. There will be no midday or weekend service.

A second Peninsula station site was identified at 2nd Avenue just east of the Redwood Junction in unincorporated San Mateo County. Additional potential exists if service is expanded to Hayward. These stations are not included in the current project but may be considered at a later date.

Use of Diesel-electric locomotives is assumed based on compatibility with other rail operators, capital costs and operating costs. However, Electric and Dual-mode technology is not precluded from further study. Although no grade separations are currently funded, there are 23 sites where rail will cross roadways at grade, 15 in the East Bay and eight on the Peninsula, some subject to significant traffic delays. Double-tracking across the bay has been eliminated from consideration.

Bus service is designed to augment rail service and provide feeder routes to stations. At this time, bus service over the Dumbarton Bridge is assumed to continue during commute hours.

TCV asked Howard Goode, Special Project Director with San Mateo County Transit District about the status of the Dumbarton Rail Corridor project and decisions made at the Policy Committee Meeting on November 15, 2005.

TCV: Several rail alternatives were presented in the technical memorandum but the recommendation was to proceed with Alternative "B" only. A letter from Jim Pierson, Interim Transportation and Operations Director for the City of Fremont requested that both Alternatives "A" and "B" be included in the Project's EIR (Environmental Impact Report). The committee accepted the request. Can you explain the alternatives?

Goode: Alternative "A" is the base alternative which is new construction in the Shinn area and in the industrial area north of Union City. That is the only place where new rail connections. Those connections would allow trains to stop at the Union City Intermodal Station.

Alternatives "B", "C" and "D" involve additional track construction projects requested by Union Pacific Railroad. Alternative "B" includes the first of those requests which is a new train bridge over Alameda Creek. Alternatives "C" adds three tracks through Centerville (Fremont) and Alternative "D" adds grade separation of rail lines at the Newark junction - having Dumbarton trains go over or under the freight trains at that junction. The recommendation that the staff put forward for Alternative "B" has a benefit to the Union Pacific but also passenger trains since it alleviates congestion and also redirects freight trains that currently go through Centerville to the Niles subdivision on the east side of Niles.

A letter from the City of Fremont asked that both Alternatives "A" and "B" be evaluated. In "A" freight stays on the Centerville line and in "B" it is presumed to shift to the Niles subdivision. If both alternatives were studied, they would be able to see more precisely the impacts on their community.

TCV: Will the volume of train traffic change?

Goode: The Dumbarton project adds 12 trains per day. The volume of trains is driven more by the other operators primarily Union Pacific which has a growing freight business. It has been growing so fast that they are no longer even trying to make projections. The Capitols also have plans to expand their service. Apart from the Dumbarton project, the rest of the train traffic is growing and is projected to continue to grow. The question that the Dumbarton project gets to address is, what can we do about this growing train traffic of which our trains are a part?

TCV: Would Niles have more train traffic under Alternative "B"?

Goode: They would have more freight traffic than they have now, but less passenger traffic because the Capital Corridor trains would no longer run over there, rather on the west side of Niles by the Union City Intermodal station. Describing all of this and evaluating the impacts is the job of the environmental study.

TCV: What is happening now?

Goode: We are completing "Phase 1" which was to get a better definition of the project. The next step is to enter the formal environmental work which will start with a scoping meeting sometime after the first of the year. The steps to do an environmental statement are proscribed. We have not set the dates for any of that yet, but that is the next thing we will turn our attention to is laying out the schedule for that work.

TCV: When will the public see concrete results from this process?

Goode: The committee, at an earlier meeting, took the position that their objective was to have service in 2010. Construction necessary to implement this would have to take place in a 2 year period before then - 2007 or 2008.

TCV: What was the role of bus service in the committee discussions?

Goode: The committee discussed the role of bus service over the Dumbarton Bridge when the Dumbarton Rail Service is initiated. Patronage estimates for the rail project showed different some differences for the two systems, so in the technical memorandum, the bus system was left in place. It was felt that although the market may determine if the bus service is necessary, the question of discontinuing the bus service should be studied.

TCV: How about bus feeder lines to rail stations?

Goode: That will certainly be part of the plan for the rail line.

TCV: Is the Dumbarton Rail Corridor fully funded?

Goode: There is a piece still pending. It is in the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) Regional Plan to be funded from state transportation funds in the amount of $39 million. This is a little over 10% of the overall project cost. We have submitted an application in cooperation with the Capitol Corridor for that funding as part of the state transportation program.

TCV: Are there any issues with the Transportation Oriented Development (TOD) - housing requirements near rail stations - for the Dumbarton Rail Corridor?

Goode:: We don't know yet. We are doing the numbers and confirming those with each city. We expect to know within a month. That will be an item on our next agenda

TCV: When will the public process begin?

Goode: We will now start a thorough environmental process to evaluate the project. People who will be affected should be aware of that and participate. Public meetings will be held in all affected cities. This will begin with scoping meetings and once draft documents are prepared there will be public hearings. The beginning of this should be in the next three to four months.

Editors note: For more information, visit:

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