Political heavyweights will help revive Dumbarton Rail Bridge project

The Dumbarton Rail Bridge caught fire in 1998 and remains partially damaged today. Photo courtesy of the Menlo Park Fire Protection District.

Daily Post Staff Writer

San Mateo County Supervisor Warren Slocum is on a mission to remind the rest of the Bay Area that the Dumbarton Rail Bridge project is not dead — and two members of Congress have joined his campaign.

Rep. Eric Swalwell

Reps. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo and Eric Swalwell, D-Hayward, have joined Slocum and other officials to ask the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, or MTC, to make it a priority to reinstate the rail bridge and improve the car bridge.

The idea is to make it easier for East Bay residents to commute to jobs in the mid-Peninsula.

“The Dumbarton Corridor is a prime example of an underdeveloped asset. We could move thousands more with express buses and ultimately create a new cross-bay connection via rail. It’s time to tear the cobwebs off the old bridge, rebuild it along modern lines, and get commuters from as far away as Stockton out of their cars,” Speier said in a statement.

Bob Marks, who works for Slocum, said that in the past officials at the MTC felt the Dumbarton rail project was dead, so they diverted funds meant for the bridge to other projects, such as BART to San Jose.

“Times have changed and the Dumbarton Corridor is now at the epicenter of growth,” the letter to the MTC says.

Marks said that the economic growth in southern San Mateo County and northern Santa Clara County has shifted people’s focus on where transportation spending ought to go.

“When Senator Feinstein was mayor of San Francisco, everyone was very focused on things relative to San Francisco,” Marks said.
Feinstein in December sent a letter to the MTC in support of a new Bay bridge, also referred to as a “southern crossing,” to be located somewhere between the Bay Bridge and the San Mateo Bridge.

Rep. Jackie Speier

“For people to think of a southern crossing, it should be the Dumbarton, it makes the most sense,” Marks said.

SamTrans in November approved the Dumbarton Corridor study, which is a plan that calls for increasing the frequency of buses across the current bridge and rebuilding the rail bridge for Caltrain or BART.

Demolishing the old rail bridge, which was partially destroyed in a fire 20 years ago, will cost $150 million, according to the report. Getting a new bridge built in its place for either buses or trains would cost between $615.1 million to $1.829 billion, according to the report.

Marks said the MTC is doing its own study looking at some of the short-term projects that could be done to improve traffic on the already existing bridge, such as changing the toll plaza and improving the west side of the bridge.

The rail bridge was built by Southern Pacific in 1910 and decommissioned in 1982. In 1994, the San Mateo County Transportation Authority bought the route for $10 million to preserve the right-of-way for future commuter trains.