With Comprehensive Dumbarton Corridor Study Completed, Agencies Seek Feedback for Proposals and Funding

Dumbarton Corridor Study, Dumbarton Transportation Corridor Study, Dumbarton Bridge, Alameda, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Stockton, Sacramento, Bay Area

By Michele Chandler

The latest proposal to develop potential strategies designed to ease frequent traffic snarls along the Dumbarton corridor—a critical Bay Area transportation route—by bringing an old bridge back to life is moving forward.

SamTrans released its draft report of its Dumbarton Transportation Corridor Study in mid-August. The report outlined improvements for heavily travelled areas between Newark and Redwood City, and included possible improvements to the Dumbarton Bridge and Dumbarton rail bridge that could help smooth transportation between Alameda, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties.

The study is the first to take a contemporary look at both the Dumbarton Bridge (Highway 84), a Bay Area commuter mainstay, as well as the mostly unused Dumbarton rail bridge, which stands just south of the highway bridge, but was built more than a century ago and is in need of significant upgrades before it could be revived as regular commuter thoroughfare.

When looking at the long-term possibilities, said SamTrans spokeman Dan Lieberman, “We’re talking about a system in which you could hop on Caltrain in South San Francisco, take it across the Dunbarton and then take it to Stockton or take it to Sacramento. This is talking about a massive rail network connecting a lot of Northern California. This is a major overhaul of a transit corridor.”

The current study, which kicked off in early 2016, is “a little more comprehensive than previous Dumbarton studies that have really just focused on the rail bridge,” said SamTrans spokeswoman Melissa Reggiardo.

The most recent in a series of more limited studies over the years about the Dumbarton corridor was only partially completed before being put on hold in 2014 due to insufficient project funding, she said.

Since the last corridor study, the transportation landscape has continued to change, the report states. Regional rail ridership reached all-time highs and several regional projects have advanced, such as the Caltrain Peninsula Corridor Electrification Project and Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) extension to San Jose, even though they have not been fully realized. At the same time, major employers have developed their own commuter shuttle and ferry programs for their employees and the need to manage the travel demand destined for their worksites.

But the study sees the limitations of the current systems, and it realizes that existing alternative transportation modes cannot reliably accommodate growing travel demand while providing travel times that are reasonably competitive with automobile, according to the report. As a result, a growing desire to rethink transportation solutions has resulted in the current effort to develop a multimodal transportation strategy that could be implemented through a partnership between the public and private sectors.

The current study, which is examining alternatives for the Dumbarton Bridge in conjunction with the aging rail bridge, was reactivated in early 2016 after Facebook agreed to cover the study’s $1.2 million cost.

“Since we put the study on hold, we’ve seen a lot of employment growth,” Reggiardo said.

SamTrans is following up with a series of public meetings to present information about the study and solicit feedback. Comments about the draft report will be accepted through the end of September.

A total of 17 presentations to inform and collect feedback about the Dumbarton Transportation Corridor Study were scheduled for August and September. In addition, people can submit comments or ask questions about the proposal online.

The SamTrans board of directors will consider a final report in late 2017 or early 2018 that incorporates public feedback. That’s an extension from the original estimate of October for completion of the final report, in order to give more time for public comment.
The SamTrans board will not approve any future projects in its report, but it will present possible options that could help alleviate traffic troubles.

The Dumbarton corridor connects the cities of Newark, Fremont and Union City in the East Bay, and Redwood City, Menlo Park, East Palo Alto and Palo Alto on the Peninsula. All of those cities are participating in the study.

Others involved in the Dumbarton study include the Alameda County Transportation Commission, the Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District—the public transportation authority for western Alameda and Contra Costa counties—and social networking giant Facebook, which employs thousands of workers throughout the region at its headquarters in Menlo Park and elsewhere.

The 267-page report provides analysis of current traffic trouble spots, including a look at average commute travel times along various commuter routes.

The wide-ranging study even aims to address regional and local mobility issues, including imbalances in jobs and housing in the South Bay that it says “threaten the economic vitality of jobs-rich areas that lack housing alternatives.”

The report gives several short-term recommendations with a target date of 2020 including:

  • Expanding the Dumbarton Express bus on the Dumbarton Bridge at a cost of $51 million;
  • Creating a bike and pedestrian path stretching from Redwood City to East Palo Alto on the rail right of way, with overpasses at Willow, Marsh, University and US-101. The estimated cost for this initiative would be $60 million;
  • Adding new routes to the Dumbarton Express bus, expanding its service to Menlo Park/Redwood City and Mountain View/Sunnyvale at an estimated cost of $51 million.

Recommendations for 2025 include:

  • Creating one express lane in each direction on the Dumbarton Bridge;
  • Adding rail shuttle service on the Dumbarton rail bridge to Newark
  • These two initiatives could be achieved for a projected cost of $1.8 billion

Recommendations for 2030 include:

  • Enhanced Dumbarton Express bus service
  • Extending the Rail Shuttle from Newark to Union City
  • These would be accomplished at an estimated cost of $377 million, in addition to the $1.8 billion for the rail shuttle service on the Dumbarton rail bridge

The study said to complete a full build-out of the recommended infrastructure improvements, “approximately $2.58 billion in capital and $90 million in annual operating funding will need to be identified. Given the size of the project cost, multiple existing and new sources and strategies will need to be pursued to deliver this phased set of complex operational and infrastructure recommendations.”

As next steps, SamTrans will continue to seek feedback and consensus from communities and public stakeholders. In addition, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission is conducting an analysis of short-term HOV/transit priority options and express lanes in the Dumbarton Corridor. This effort will consider the operational details of these potential improvements to a greater extent than the overall Dumbarton Corridor study did.

Finally, a concerted effort between a number of agencies and organizations such as the CalSTA, Altamont Commuter Express, Capitol Corridor and Union Pacific Railroad will be done to look into public-private partnership opportunities. These will investigate the viability of the rail alternatives (in addition to other alternatives), given more regional-based rail connections and operating plans, as well as a closer analysis of busway options and design and environmental activities.

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