High-speed rail planners stay course despite new pitch from San Francisco leaders 

click to enlarge San Francisco officials want the high-speed rail to be constructed quicker in the region and to connect to the Transbay Transit Center. - COURTESY RENDERING
  • Courtesy rendering
  • San Francisco officials want the high-speed rail to be constructed quicker in the region and to connect to the Transbay Transit Center.

Patience may be a virtue, but San Francisco isn’t willing to wait 20-plus years for high-speed rail to arrive in The City.

Construction on high-speed rail networks in the Bay Area would start within three years under a proposal being pushed by city officials, including Mayor Ed Lee.

Under the current business plan backed by the California High-Speed Rail Authority, the first construction on the line that would eventually shuttle passengers from San Francisco to Los Angeles is slated to start next year in the Central Valley. Train service would not be available in San Francisco until 2034.

Even then, the trains are set to stop at Fourth and King streets, not the Transbay Transit Center, the $1.5 billion train depot that is supposed to act as the network’s northern terminus at Mission and First streets.

However, the San Francisco County Transportation Authority, a local transit planning agency, said construction in the Bay Area could coincide with the beginning of work in the Central Valley.

For around $4.5 billion, the high-speed rail network could be built in the region, connecting passengers from the Transbay Transit Center to San Jose, said Jose Luis Moscovich, executive director of the TA.

“We are not backing away from starting in the Central Valley,” said Lance Simmens, a spokesman for the state rail authority.

This proposal, called the Fast Start network by the TA, would involve a blended approach in the Peninsula, where high-speed rail trains would share an electrified trackway with Caltrain. It would also include a tunnel underneath the South of Market district to connect with the Transbay Transit Center.

Environmental clearance has already been given to both those plans, Moscovich said. The TA is still trying to determine how much funding would be available for the project, but Moscovich said private groups would be interested in backing the endeavor.

At an TA hearing Tuesday, legislative liaison Jason Elliott said Lee called the Fast Start proposal the “best strategy” for high-speed rail.

Simmens said the agency is still finalizing its construction and alignment plans. The ultimate decision on where the network will start is expected to be made next month.

wreisman@sfexaminer.com

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Will Reisman

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