Funds sought for Dumbarton rail bridge

The fire damaged Dumbarton rail bridge can be seen arcing to the left in this photo from SamTrans.

BY JEN NOWELL
Daily Post Correspondent

SamTrans, with a little help from Facebook, is applying for funding to restore service to the Dumbarton Rail Bridge, which many believe would reduce traffic congestion.

The transit district is planning to submit an application for the state’s Transit and Intercity Capital Rail Program to help pay for a portion of the restoration project, according to a report by Project Manager Melissa DuMond. Applications are due by Jan. 16.

By spring, SamTrans is hoping to have alternatives identified for evaluation, with a preferred option selected by the beginning of 2021, DuMond wrote. Construction on the project that would provide a mass transit connection between the Peninsula and the East Bay is expected to begin in 2022.

In August 2018, SamTrans entered into an agreement with Cross Bay Transit Partners, a partnership between Facebook and Plenary Group, to determine the feasibility of development within the Dumbarton Rail Corridor.

Australia-based Plenary Group is an investment group that specializes in public-private partnerships.

The partnership agreement is set to expire in February. However, Jim Hartnett, the district’s general manager, is able to extend the agreement for up to three consecutive periods of six months each.

SamTrans Board of Directors will hear an update on the project at its meeting on Wednesday. The board will not take any action on the project at this meeting.

In 2017, SamTrans conducted a study of what to do with the bridge.

Cost estimates

The study said it would cost about $150 million to demolish the bridge. Building a new bridge over the 1.3 mile span for either buses or trains would cost between $615.1 million and $1.8 billion, according to the study.

SamTrans is considering multiple sources for funding, both public and private.

The rail bridge, once the oldest bridge to span the Bay, was built by Southern Pacific in 1910 and decommissioned in 1982.

In 1994, the San Mateo County Transportation Authority bought the Dumbarton rail route for $10 million to preserve the right-of-way for a future commuter train.

Two fires hit bridge

A fire this past summer destroyed the Fremont side of the out-of-service rail bridge which runs parallel to the Dumbarton Bridge. This came 21 years after a fire burned the Menlo Park portion of the same bridge.

As the transit district looks to revitalize transit across the bridge, Facebook has its own project in the works for Menlo Park, known as Willow Village.

The company wants to build 1.75 million square feet of office space, 1,735 homes, up to 200,000 square feet of retail space and a hotel at Willow Road and the Dumbarton rail line.

In October, the city’s Planning Commission pushed for Facebook to provide traffic solutions and more housing as part of its proposal. Commissioners asked if there was any way to require the tech giant to fund transportation projects, such as the Dumbarton Bridge project.