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Downtown San Francisco's Caltrain extension plan gets big boost from federal government

The ambitious plan to connect Caltrain to San Francisco’s Salesforce Transit Center just got a big boost from the federal government.

According to the agency managing the project, the feds are promising more than $3 billion to make it happen.

But some critics of the project point out that if the project happens, it will be one of the most expensive 2-mile stretches of public transit ever built in the U.S.

Below the street level bus concourse at the transit center, is another massive structure that was built to accommodate trains. But the trains can’t get there currently.

The hope was that funding to connect the station to the trains would eventually come together.

The Transbay Joint Powers Authority (TJPA) is the agency that hopes to make that happen.

After a meeting with transportation policy makers in Washington D.C. last week, the head of the agency offered a very positive update during a recent board meeting.  

“They have accepted the portal into the engineering phase of the capital investment grant. This is something we’ve been working on for a number of years now and it comes with a federal commitment of $3.38 billion to the portal project,” Adam Van de Water, executive director of the Transbay Joint Powers Authority, said.

According to the agency, that’s almost half of the nearly $8 billion price tag.

The portal will be a tunnel to be dug from the current Caltrain station to the Salesforce Transit Center, which is nearly 2 miles away.

It’s actually closer as the crow flies, but the tunneling will zig zag under the city a bit.

An animation from the agency shows the trains will go underground, then turn under 2nd Street, and then eventually arrive at the Transit Center under Natoma and Minna streets.

According to TJPA board vice chairman, Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, the cost of the 2.4-mile tunnel has ballooned over the years, in part because of inflation.

And unfortunately, that number will continue to climb the longer it takes to get the project started.

Right now, the agency is still short $2.3 billion.

Regular public transit riders say those costs are staggering, but say they remain supportive of anything that leads to more accessible public transit.

“I like lower taxes, so if they’re planning on funding that by increasing our taxes, I’d say maybe do some re-shuffling of the budget, look around to find those funds somewhere else,” BART commuter Joseph O’Driscoll said.

“It’s a great investment. I mean, Public Works tends to waste a lot of money. That would be a really good investment,” Caltrain commuter Steven Reiley said.

The anticipated completion date for the tunnel, which could also eventually accommodate high speed rail, is 2032.

Source: NBC Bay Area

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