Proposed Transbay Terminal Rail Extension

As we wrote and quoted back in 2008:

While Proposition 1A passed last week giving San Francisco hope of realizing a high-speed rail line, the hope that rail lines will be extended the 1.4 miles from the current Caltrain station at Fourth and King to the new Transbay Transit Center to rise at First and Mission might have taken a hit.

“We do not need First and Mission. I am satisfied with Fourth and Townsend,” said Judge Quentin Kopp, chairman of the High Speed Rail Authority. “We are not going to pay an extra billion-plus dollars to take the high-speed rail an extra 1.4 miles.”

The extension will have to be resolved — and funded — by The City and Caltrain, he said.

In related news, the realization of high-speed rail could help speed the electrification of Caltrain which would greatly benefit the residents of Mission Bay (think diesel noise and pollution).

Last week, a plan to spend $1.5 billion dollars to electrify Caltrain by way of a mix of bonds, tax revenue and federal grants was agreed upon and included a “pledge by Bay Area leaders to build a 1.2-mile tunnel through downtown San Francisco to connect the line to the new Transbay Terminal.”

The electrification is expected to take five years and construction could commence as early as next year. Now about the potential to develop the Fourth and King Streets railyard we first mentioned a few years ago…

San Francisco's Fourth and King Street Railyard

Transbay Terminal Moves Forward, But Payments And Terms Change [SocketSite]
California High-Speed Rail Peer Review Questions Plans For HSR [SocketSite]
While San Francisco Might Get High-Speed Rail, Will The Transbay? [SocketSite]
$1.5 billion Caltrain deal packs some big extras [SFGate]
Fourth and King Railyard: Now You See It, Perhaps One Day You Won’t [SocketSite]

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Comments from “Plugged-In” Readers

  1. Posted by Adam

    Point one- Where are those tail tracks in the diagram headed to? There is no point in building a literal tunnel to nowhere, unless they can credibly claim that it would be possible to complete a loop in the future because that would speed traffic into and out of the terminal.
    Point two- giving up the rail yards for development would be a criminal misuse of public land. Not every train needs to go all the way to the transbay terminal- On days with ballgames it will always make sense to end some trains there. If they remove the rail yard it is worth pointing out that that neighborhood needs more parks, and it’s too bad that there are no large parcels to convert into parkland…

  2. Posted by mike

    Down Boy, no need to start arresting people.
    Point one – Tail tracks are not a “tunnel to nowhere”. Most terminal stations have tail tracks to be used for the offline cleaning and provisioning of trains or to provide additional overnight parking capacity for trainsets. For a local example, look at the BART stations at Pittsburg/Bay Point and at East Dublin Pleasanton.
    Point two – The development of the rail yards would be on a cap constructed over the existing railroads. Both Caltrans and HST would continue to serve Fourth and King. Check the HST 2012 Business Plan.

  3. Posted by iz

    According to Caltrain and SPUR, Caltrain’s electrification “horizon year” is 2025. Wow, talk about slow moving…
    http://www.caltrain.com/caltrain2025.html
    http://www.spur.org/publications/library/report/critical_cooling/option19

  4. Posted by mike

    ^^^ Which is why this is such good news. HST money will speed up electrification of the Caltrain Corridor.

  5. Posted by tipster

    I missed the part where they said they had the money, as opposed to a “plan” to buy everyone a pony *if* they get the money.

  6. Posted by BobN

    Find me a city in Europe or industrialized Asia where a city of nearly a million people that serves as an economic (co)hub of a region with seven million inhabitants is successfully served by a rail station with two or four tracks.
    I double-dare you.

  7. Posted by RobBob

    I believe the last plan I saw is that not all trains will terminate at the Transbay Terminal, many will still have a final terminus at 4th and King. The DTX extension isn’t planned as a complete replacement for the existing station.
    Actually it makes you wonder if there couldn’t have been some better coordination so that there wouldn’t need to be three separate rail systems (Caltrain, BART, Muni N and T lines) running inside of a 10 block radius, without there being a single station where all three meet at the same point!

  8. Posted by Iz

    Yea, from the diagram above it looks like most of the 4th and King station will remain. So why do we keep hearing about the potential to develop that space with condos and/or parks?

  9. Posted by mike

    ^^^Where do you “keep hearing about the potential to develop that space with condos and/or parks”? No one is suggesting that Fourth and King go away. The development of the AIR RIGHTS is being evaluated.

  10. Posted by rubber_chicken

    Please look at the plan peeps. It says “New Caltrain Station (Underground)”, at 4th & Townsend.
    Re: developing the air rights: It should be a pre-requisite for the rest. There is a long tradition of selling air-rights to pay for electrification, stations, and infrastructure. Grand Central is one such example. And with the land price for the Transbay tower cut in half, we (the taxpayers) need some other value-added revenue sources.

  11. Posted by ddd

    (a)The graphic above showing tail tracks down Beale Street is outdated. The Transbay Transit Center currently under construction is being built all the way to Main Street and no tail tracks are in the current plans. However looping the tracks out the east end of the station and down Embarcadero and around to Townsend is something that is continuously discussed and studied because a loop has a much higher throughput capacity than a stub-end station.
    (b) All those tracks and platforms are necessary because Caltrain needs to store trains for a bunch of hours before they head back in the other direction, not because there is so much service to SF. If there were another convenient storage place near the SF end of the corridor, they wouldn’t need to devote so much valuable real estate in the heart of the City to storing trains. If you delve in the HSR plans, you’ll see that they are planning to build a huge oversized storage and maintenance facility in Brisbane, but not share it with Caltrain. Huh? If that were a shared facility, which it probably inevitably will be once people come to their senses and realize that the distinction between HSR and Caltrain as separate entities and services is silly, it would free up much of the need to have so many tracks and platforms at King Street.

  12. Posted by RobBob

    ddd: do you know if there has been an EIR done for a loop down Embarcadero? I know it was already done for the Townsend/2nd St alignment, which would make that part more “shovel ready.” But if they have to do a bunch of work for a further extension (aside from the fact that it is unbudgeted) then who knows how likely that is.
    Also I imagine there might be some issues that would require additional property taking or easements, especially given that there are a few buildings with underground parking near the end of Townsend that might interfere with the track curve radius requirements.

  13. Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

    “…but not share it with Caltrain. Huh?”
    There’s a whole blog dedicated to exploring the puzzling issue of why the CAHSR plans don’t include sharing infrastructure with Caltrain through this very expensive segment of the project: http://caltrain-hsr.blogspot.com/
    It seems like we would want to get the most bang possible for our hundred gigabucks.
    My theory is that some homeland security types are pushing for a completely separated system all the way down to separate entrances at the same station for Caltrain vs. HSR. And the airlines would love to see HSR straddled with the same security burden that they endure.

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