Finish date for Dumbarton rail plan pushed back to 2012 

Commuters hoping to use a new rail corridor to travel between the Peninsula and Union City will have to wait until 2012.

Officials with the Dumbarton Rail Policy Committee confirmed Tuesday that the original completion date, projected for sometime in 2010, is now considered a touch optimistic. An environmental review of the rail service is expected to begin in the fall and take approximately 30 months to complete, according to Jonah Weinberg, spokesman for the San Mateo County Transportation District.

"It’s an exquisitely complex project. With all the railway approvals we need, station changes and changes to existing railroads, it’s an ambitious and doable project for 2012," said Menlo Park City Councilmember Mickie Winkler, who sits on the rail committee.

The estimated price tag — most recently pegged at about $300 million — is also likely to rise, according to Redwood City Councilmember Jim Hartnett, who also serves on the Dumbarton Rail Committee.

Cities like Menlo Park have requested grade separations when the new corridor opens, but they were not included in the initial project and remain unfunded.

"It’s unrealistic that we can obtain money for more than a couple of grade separations," Hartnett said.

Meanwhile, Union Pacific officials now say they would like to use the new transbay rail bridge for freight also, something planners had not initially considered, Winkler said.

Dumbarton Rail plans call for starting with six round-trips per day, carrying 4,800 passengers — a number that could rise to 6,900 by 2025. The project is funded in part by Measure A, San Mateo County’s transportation sales tax, and by Measure 2, a regional transit tax.

Despite the delay, there are some bright spots on the funding horizon.

The rail committee has already convinced the Bay Area Metropolitan Transportation Commission to release $19.2 million the MTC had set aside for Dumbarton Rail-related projects. On June 1, the San Mateo County Transportation Authority approved $75,000 for Menlo Park to develop a rail corridor plan around a new station that would be built at Willow Road.

In addition, the Dumbarton Rail Policy Committee intends to compete for funding that will become available if Gov. Schwarzenegger’s $19.9 billion transportation infrastructure bond is approved by voters this November, Hartnett said.

bwinegarner@examiner.com

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