Millions in funding can’t solve ferry terminal’s problems yet 

Fears of delay still loom even after the ferry terminal at Oyster Point received $10 million in much needed funding.

The $46 million project, originally scheduled for completion by December 2008 and later pushed back to early 2009, was approved by the South San Francisco City Council in January. Hailed as a future landmark of San Mateo County, the terminal will connect Oyster Point Marina to Jack London Square in Oakland. Touted as a great alternative for commuters, the Oyster Point ferry would carry about 700 daily passengers between the two locations.

The San Mateo County Transportation Authority had said that it will postpone releasing $15 million of Measure A funds until the San Francisco Bay Area Water Emergency Transportation Authority — the agency overseeing the operations of all ferry terminals in the Bay Area, except for ferries operated by the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District — secures $5 million to begin construction on the project.

The recent $10 million infusion ensures that the county agency will contribute the $15 million in funds.

Despite having secured the $10 million from Proposition 1B, an infrastructure bond passed in 2006, WETA learned the county will discuss the project no earlier than August, which may delay weather-sensitive construction and put off the launch until 2010.

"There is some uncertainty when we’d get the money," said WETA spokesperson Shirley Douglas. "That has been a wrinkle in the process. If we got it in June, we would have been OK, but we have a question if we can complete construction in time."

If construction doesn’t begin this summer, the first stage of the project, which consists of driving piles that hold the terminal into the mud at Oyster Point, is in jeopardy. Initial construction must be finished by November before the beginning of fish spawning season, said Douglas. Otherwise, it will have to be done in the spring, delaying the service another half a year.

"I still have questions about the whole issue," said Karyl Matsumoto, a member of the county’s Transportation Authority. "What if we advance them the $15 million and after one year, the ridership doesn’t support the ferry? Then WETA has every right to stop service, but what happens to the $15 million? I’m not faulting the logic, but I’m going to be very careful on how I vote."

svasilyuk@sfexaminer.com

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