The proposed new bridge will not support rail
as the present bridge once did.
The replacement span, at a cost of $1.6 billion or more, would be functionally and structurally inferior to the present bridge. The Draft Environmental Impact Statement submitted by Caltrans to the federal government says that Amtrak trains are too heavy to be accommodated by a bridge design that, according to its engineers, is rewriting the standards of earthquake safety with the latest high-tech innovations.
One of the significant concerns of the public was that the approved eastern span was not designed to accommodate rail. The MTC is now obliged to look at rail across the entire bridge. That exercise has produced MTC's consultants' preliminary finding that it would cost more than $3.3 billion to get any sort of passenger rail from shore to shore across the bridge! This figure is vastly inflated, as much as tripled, presumably to discourage serious consideration of rail on the Bay Bridge. (Compare with the $300 million rail retrofit of the Tagus River suspension bridge in Portugal.)
In August, 1998, four mayors of cities bordering the San Francisco Bay resolved to get rail capacity with the new bridge. See the Chronicle article about their rail initiative. The mayors' rational pleas were ridiculed in a Chronicle op-ed article by State Senator Quentin Kopp. In the article he calls the addition of trains a violation of the laws of physics.
Senator Kopp is the author of S.B. 60 which appropriated nearly one and a half billion dollars for a replacement east span. In that bill, provision for rail was considered an "amenity," one which the public's representatives on the Metropolitan Transportation Commission voted not to provide.
A reply to former State Senator Kopp's op-ed piece was given by Emeryville Mayor Bukowski entitled, The Truth About Trains.
From the Draft Environmental Impact Statement:
we are told that the new and stronger bridge is too weak to carry heavy rail. How will it stand up in an earthquake?
S.3.7 Accommodation of Multi-Modal Strategies
While none of the project alternatives presented above would include facilities for high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes or rail transit, the existing East Span or a replacement span could accommodate a HOV lane or light rail transit (LRT) by converting vehicular traffic lanes or shoulders and making additional modifications. BART- or AMTRAK-type trains could not be accommodated on the East Span structure due to the combined length and weight of the trains. The purpose of such a facility would be to increase mobility within the Transbay Corridor.
The feasibility of incorporating a high occupancy transportation facility was evaluated as part of the East Span Project alternatives definition process. The evaluation determined that the implementation of a multi-modal strategy would have institutional and funding issues and adversely affect traffic operations on the SFOBB and its approaches. LRT strategies have not been evaluated at a system level, and no funding has been programmed or identified for either HOV lanes or LRT.
Since multi-modal strategies would reduce the number of mixed-flow traffic lanes, any multi-modal strategy must capture high ridership to match the loss in mixed-flow vehicular capacity on the SFOBB and its approaches. Otherwise, vehicular operations on the SFOBB and approaches would be comparatively worse than without the system. Substantial costs would be incurred to construct and operate an HOV or LRT system. Based on these potential impacts, neither dedicated HOV lanes nor an LRT system has been included in project alternatives.
The implementation of any multi-modal strategy on the SFOBB would be subject to independent evaluation and funding as a separate project in the future. The SFOBB East Span project does not preclude the implementation of an HOV lane or a rail system on the East Span in the future.
Following is Emeryville Mayor Ken Bukowski's reply to Senator Kopp on the question of designing the new bridge to accommodate passenger (and freight) trains.
THE TRUTH ABOUT TRAINS
by Mayor Ken Bukowski
[Monday, September 7, 1998]
Friday's opinion/editorial story about "The Little Train that Couldn't" is grossly inaccurate information. It is part of an unfortunate attempt by Senator Kopp to mislead the public for unknown reasons. You are witnessing the crusade of a man determined to have his own way at tremendous regional expense.
The heart of the issue: It's no coincidence that four mayors, who represent the cities most impacted by the Bay Bridge, have expressed their concerns. The approved replacement East Span is inadequate to serve our needs. Simply stated, we are seeking to have the new east span at least be comparable to the existing structure. The selected replacement bridge is inferior, and will not be built to the same high standard of construction. It is not as strong, nor will it be able to handle the same weight and stress necessary to accommodate intercity passenger trains.
From the standpoint of safety, it has been said that if the current east span had not been built to a high standard of strength, necessary to accommodate trains, it would not have withstood the Loma Prieta earthquake.
At the same time we are asking for a better bridge. We feel that, in view of the anticipated regional growth and prosperity, the new east span should not deliberately preclude the future capability to accommodate intercity rail service.
Why is there such opposition to making the new bridge stronger, and to preserve the possibility for future rail service at the same time?
The Bay Bridge, while it is two separate structures, is still only one bridge. Building rail capability into the new structure means three things: (1) The new East Span will coincide with, and have the same ability to carry intercity trains as the West Span; (2) We must make it possible to connect a rail line between the two spans, (this is true even for light rail); and (3) From the standpoint of safety, we are asking for a bridge to be built stronger and to the same high standard as what we now have.
About future possible rail service. The assertion, by Senator Kopp, that we are trying to somehow start a railroad, is totally unfounded. To further suggest that we are trying to spend $3 billion dollars to reestablish train tracks in the east bay neighborhoods is grossly misleading information.
In fact, funding for any future rail project across the bridge means that such a project could only be funded after approval by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC). Such a Project would have to be adopted as part of the Regional Transportation Plan. It would require extensive research, public hearings and evaluation.
To intentionally lead the public to believe that approval of this advisory measure somehow supports a wild dream of the four mayors is preposterous. We neither have the desire to spend such sums of money, nor would we even attempt to support a rail line across the bridge that was not thoroughly researched, and evaluated, through the public process.
The MTC Commissioners also asked for rail on the bridge to be included on the new Bridge. The result was that Caltrans announced that the new span would be capable of carrying light rail vehicles. Does this make any sense when heavy passenger rail service now exists on both sides of the bridge?
The light rail component is not realistically possible. One, the new span is designed so that a rail line cannot connect between the two spans. Two, there is no light rail line to connect with, and there are no plans for a future light rail line.
Until this campaign started, we had no idea that even a light rail line could not be connected between the east and west spans.
The light rail is a political component that is supposed to satisfy the people who want rail on the Bridge. It serves no other purpose,
High-speed Rail and the Transbay Terminal
The newest boom in the transportation industry, worldwide, almost comparable to the birth of the auto, is the rapidly growing use of high-speed rail. If high-speed rail comes to California, a rail line may be needed across the bridge to connect the Transbay Terminal to the existing Union Pacific Rail Line in the East Bay.
The Transbay Terminal is an existing class-one rail station. It has been identified as the desired terminus for future high-speed rail in San Francisco. Recognizing the potential benefit, Mayor Brown supports keeping the Transbay Terminal at its current location. This opportunity also reopens the door for the downtown CalTrain extension to the terminal.
The Transbay Terminal was built as a part of the Bay Bridge Railway, as trains ran across the Bridge from 1939 to 1958. Since that time the facility is being used for transbay bus service. Last year MTC held numerous public hearings about the future of the facility. The region spoke loud and clear at all of those meetings as hundreds of citizens from all over the region came forward and expressed their desire for the Transbay Terminal to serve as a regional transit hub for both bus and rail service. A future rail connection across the bridge would connect S.F. into the nationwide rail network.
Travelers going to/from San Francisco would potentially need the rail connection across the bridge for those traveling to Sacramento, and all points east. To the south the rail connection could finally be made with the CalTrain rail line. If the Transbay Terminal became a terminus for high-speed rail, to make it viable, travelers need easy travel access in all directions, rather than limiting the connection to only one direction. A connection across the bridge is the only way to share some of the benefits of high- speed rail with Oakland, and the East Bay cities. Or if high-speed rail only goes to Oakland and the East Bay, then S.F. would lose out. Trains would be traveling at slow speeds across the Bridge but the connection would be made.
Benefits of High-speed Rail
While such a system may seem fanciful now, problems at regional airports "winglock," air pollution, and excessive energy consumption make implementation of high-speed rail, at some point, assured. No technological barriers exist.
High-speed rail services have been commercially available and very successful in Japan, France and Germany for about ten years. New systems have opened in Spain, and other countries, such as Korea, are planning systems even now.
In America, Texas is ahead of the high-speed game, with a major system linking San Antonio, Dallas, and Houston. California can't be far behind.
- Advances in rail technology have allowed intercity rail systems in Europe and Japan to attain speeds of up to 200 mph and to compete effectively with air travel for trips in the 200- to 500-mile range.
- Development of a high-speed ground transportation system is a necessary and viable alternative to automobile and air travel in the state.
- Utilizing existing human and manufacturing resources to build a large network of high-speed ground transportation systems will generate jobs and economic growth for today's population.
- High-speed rail bears many similarities to the air mode, more so than it does either to conventional rail or to highways. By competing successfully with the airplane, the highest-value travelers and their dollars are attracted to the line, its stations, and their environs. Unlike airports, however, with their vast space requirements and concomitant low-density development, high-speed rail stations need modest space.
- Locating major stations directly downtown concentrates the economic benefit from the system. Consider S.F. Airport: while it is owned by San Francisco, much of the economic advantages it brings accrue not to the City but to San Mateo County where the hotels, restaurants, car-rental lots and other revenue generators are located. It is not possible to locate an airport in San Francisco, but the City can have the premier high-speed rail station.
- A downtown station location and high-speed rail have desirable synergy: easy access to downtown services promotes travel on the line, while heavy passenger loadings encourage further development near the station. French experts in high-speed rail development consider such a location a necessity for maximizing the line's success. (According to Gest International, a major French rail co-developer.)
- The arrival of the train in the city center will be a bonanza for S.F. The stop at Transbay Terminal will greatly revitalize the local real estate market, whether office buildings, retail or residential. High-speed train stations give so much value to the surrounding parcels that it becomes possible to cover the station, if necessary, with concrete slabs and to sell the air-rights above it or against it at a much increased value.
- In Paris and Lyon, international development companies literally scrambled to buy the air-rights at the Montparnasse station. Every European city concerned with the high-speed train has established a mass plan around the station to take advantage of and to organize the urban growth created by it.
High-speed rail will confer great economic benefits and associated development to San Francisco, and neighboring cities. California voters will decide whether high-speed rail should come to California in the year 2000. Awaiting that decision, there is already a proposal for the Transbay Terminal to be developed as the San Francisco High Speed Rail Terminus. The facility would be developed to accommodate both buses and trains. This is only one of many potential reasons why the new East Span should include the ability to accommodate inter-city rail.
Can you believe much of the above analysis came from language written by Senator Kopp himself? Why is Kopp really opposed to rail on the bridge?
After waiting eight long years, in less than a year's time we are being rushed into a decision of serious magnitude. Has anybody stopped and asked whether or not the new bridge will meet our needs? If the Senator and others are so concerned about losing lives, where have they been for the last eight years?
Senator Kopp now claims that every minute we wait, we are endangering lives. We are asking important questions which were not answered during the approval process. We are saying that the new east span is inferior, and is not adequate, as approved. It didn't have to be that way, as the mayors have been asking for the new bridge to be built with the capability of carrying intercity trains since the design process started.
We have been totally ignored every step of the way. That's why this issue became a ballot measure. Perhaps they will answer the public. We feel the public will recognize and support building a new east span that meets the same high standard, and has the same capability as what we are replacing. It's really that simple.
To spend over $2 billion and endure five long years of construction to achieve a result that will only bring us a pedestrian/bike path on the east span is not enough.
Just because the project is exempt from environmental review doesn't mean we should not examine transportation questions like future growth, traffic congestion, future rail, and transit access to the bridge.
BART's new control system may indeed increase capacity, but will that be enough? At the very maximum, with 1,000 people packed in a BART train, with two-minute headways, the very maximum number of people that could be moved is 27,000 passengers per hour.
The existing Transbay Terminal with rail service was designed to move 51,000 passengers per hour back in 1939. That's almost double that absolute maximum BART capacity without any modern devices.
We're talking about a new bridge to last 150 years. In another 20 years BART's new system won't be able to handle the demand. the addition of a rail line across the bridge would provide direct rail service to San Francisco from numerous areas north and south of the four counties that are served by the traditional BART train.
Kopp's remark is shortsighted, and the same as shoveling a spade of dirt against the tide.
BART has now taken on the task of operating a different kind of train along the Union Pacific Main Line. If BART wanted to connect its new Capital Corridor route to San Francisco, the connection across the Bay Bridge would make that possible.
Some day the Bay Area is going to reach the point where automobiles will not be able to meet the demand. Mass transit will be the only way to handle it. During the design process, all of the proposed designs that had a rail line were summarily rejected.
They were not shown to the public or to the MTC Commission for fear the Commission may have chosen a design that was not favorable to Caltrans and Senator Kopp, and MTC Staff.
Collectively, MTC Staff, Caltrans, and Senator Kopp have short-circuited the process. Kopp wrote legislation that made the choice for the MTC Commissioners. His legislation said that no mass transit facility could be required for the Bridge. His legislation also decided what kind of bridge we would have.
We are being criticized for asking some good questions about a structure that is supposed to serve us for 150 years. We are asking if it is adequate for our needs. Should we question a $2 billion taxpayer expense, with five long years of construction that will directly impact all four cities, with no public benefit to transportation, other than the addition of a pedestrian/bicycle path on the East Span?
Kopp's legislation also made this project exempt from any environmental review. In the interest of safety should we totally disregard all of the congestion-related impacts of the project? Just because an EIR is not required, shouldn't we do some kind of transportation study or analysis, or even transportation planning?
Is there no concern about traffic congestion and air pollution? These are the issues that the four mayors are asking about. We have been asking these questions. But we get no answers. That's exactly what forced this to become a ballot measure. I thought they would have to respond to the public, and the editorial from Kopp is what we get.
The Bay Area is growing rapidly, and we must plan for the future. In light of the current and projected traffic congestion, and the redesignation of this area as a noon attainment area by the Federal EPA, to rush out there under the guise of public safety, and spend over $2 billion and endure five years of construction for a new bridge with inferior capabilities, that does not even maintain the same number of transportation options we have today, is irresponsible.
A word about funding for the seismic work. In 1996 California voters approved Proposition 192 to provide a funding mechanism for the seismic work on all state highway and toll bridges.
The justification for approving this measure was that the high cost of seismic repairs was going to threaten funding of other transportation projects across the state. The measure clearly stated that general-obligation bond funds must be used to pay for all of the seismic repairs on the state highway & toll bridges.
Proposition 192 went even further by specifically prohibiting the use of toll revenue for seismic purposes.
After the measure was approved a $2 billion dollar bond was sold to pay for the seismic work. It was later discovered that the Caltrans estimate for the cost of those seismic repairs was about 50% of the $4 billion which they are now expected to cost. The additional $2 billion is being raised in direct violation of the voter-approved mandate.
If the voters would have known the price tag for the seismic work was double, then it would have been more reason to vote for Prop 192. Senator Kopp and the Legislature have decided to increase the toll fees, as well as reallocate transportation funds from other transportation projects across the state, in direct contradiction, and in violation of Proposition 192.
Some claim the toll increase is illegal, and demand that it be rolled back. In the same way that Caltrans and Senator Kopp ignored the mandate of the California voters, the mayors of the four cities were ignored during the hearings about the new bridge. We are asking for a show of public support, seeking your vote for what should be done.
Perhaps Senator Kopp intends to ignore the voters of San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley and Emeryville. It 's time someone told the real truth about the trains.
Ken Bukowski is the Mayor of Emeryville, California, which borders San Francisco Bay north of the Bay Bridge. For more than a year he has lobbied the Metropolitan Transportation Commission to include rail and other transit options in the design of the replacement east span.