16th St. presents transit pickle 

Plans to improve Mission Bay’s public transit, pedestrian and bicycle networks could be threatened by developments associated with the state’s high-speed rail line.

Formerly an underdeveloped tract on the eastern waterfront, Mission Bay is now a hub for biotech research facilities, and The City has significant development plans slated for the area. Although it’s projected to be home to 30,000 jobs in the biotech field, and developers want to construct 6,000 housing units, there is no direct transit route connecting Mission Bay to western

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which operates Muni, has plans to address that problem by rerouting the 22-Fillmore bus to run directly down 16th Street, a key corridor that connects the Mission district to Mission Bay.

However, complications arising from the planned high-speed rail network, which is slated to come through San Francisco via Caltrain’s right of way, could jeopardize the SFMTA’s plans.

As part of a pact to share its right of way with the California High-Speed Rail Authority, Caltrain has plans to electrify its system using funds from high-speed rail bonds, a move designed to increase the efficiency of the commuter-rail network. But if Caltrain electrifies its rail line, Muni will not be able to run the electric-powered 22-Fillmore bus down 16th Street because the two systems’ wire networks would interfere with each other, according to Timothy Papandreou, deputy planning director for the SFMTA’s sustainable streets program.

Under an agreement with Mission Bay developers, the 22-Fillmore is required to be an emissions-free vehicle, meaning an electric-powered trolley bus is the only option, Papandreou said. He said the SFMTA is working closely with Caltrain and the rail authority on developing possible solutions for the intersection, which include trenching out 16th Street and running Muni service underneath the high-speed rail and Caltrain network.

However, officials at UC San Francisco, which recently approved a $1.5 billion expansion at its Mission Bay campus, oppose that option because the trenching would create an obstacle to pedestrian and bike travel.

“Trenching 16th Street under the tracks and leaving the rail tracks would not be acceptable,” UCSF Vice Chancellor Barbara French wrote to the rail authority. “As this would irreparably sever the two sides of the city and make a hostile and uninviting connection between the two for pedestrians and cyclists.”

Papandreou said the crossing at 16th Street is just one of many challenges the SFMTA faces in integrating its east-west travel networks with the high-speed rail. He said The City is completely supportive of high-speed rail and is committed to coming up with solutions.

According to spokeswoman Rachel Wall, the rail authority is still developing plans for its route through San Francisco, which include underground and at-grade options. She said the agency will release preliminary findings in December as part of its draft environmental impact report.



Fast trains, emerging neighborhood

The planned high-speed rail system conflicts with the SFMTA’s proposal to reroute the 22-Fillmore bus.

30,000: Employees projected to work in Mission Bay
6,000: Condos and apartment units slated to be constructed
0: Transit lines that travel to Mission Bay on 16th Street
$45 billion: Cost of high-speed rail project
$1.2 billion: Cost to electrify Caltrain
$516 million: Electrification funding Caltrain hopes to attain through high-speed rail programs
2020: Projected start date of high-speed rail service

Sources: Caltrain, California High-Speed Rail Authority

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Will Reisman

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