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Dumbarton Rail Corridor (DRC) Project Placed on Hold – EIR/EIS in Abeyance

In a memo to the DRC Policy Advisory Committee dated October 25, 2013 the project staff stated that the DRC Environmental Impact Report (EIR/EIS) was being placed on hold due to a substantial shortfall in the project budget. That translates into what has been the situation for the entire life of the project- there is not enough money to build it. If the DRC were a worthy transit project and had the ridership and usefulness that warranted sufficient funding, the EIR/EIS would have been published by now.

 During October 2013 meetings of the Citizen’s Advisory Panel and the Policy Advisory Committee to the DRC staff explained that the Agency charged with giving approval to any final EIR/EIS – The Federal Transit Administration – indicated that if reasonable funding alternatives cannot be included in the EIR/EIS it is unlikely they would issue a final approval for the project.  The staff felt it was not prudent to expend additional resources for work on the DRC for this reason.  As a matter of record this same point came up in Sept 2009. An excerpt from my notes at that time reads:

  1. 1.     The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has a policy of not releasing an EIR/EIS if it is not adequately funded. Summarizing the disadvantages currently associated with this project are:
    1. a.     It is severely underfunded
    2. b.     It has ridership projections that do not support pursuing it
    3. c.      Jurisdictional support is showing signs of abandoning it

Yet the project work continued for 3 ½ more years. Do you think taxpayers’ money was being well spent?

As you may recall the annual allocation of DRC operating funds were re-programmed to allow the Dumbarton Bus (DB) Express bus service to expand and enhance its services to cross bay commuters. That service has seen an increase in ridership.  The rationale for this reallocation of operating funds is to allow the DB Express to serve as a platform to develop the ridership for the rail service. We will see if that emerges however there are DRC stalwarts who believe the DRC will still happen - someday.

 The approximately $34M in funds which were designated for the DRC at the regional level (Metropolitan Transportation Commission –MTC) will be re-evaluated for use in other transportation projects which benefit the Dumbarton transportation corridor as will funds at the local level.  For example the Alameda County Transportation Commission will reallocate several million in Dumbarton corridor improvement funds which have been focused on the DRC project into other more worthy transit initiatives.

The members of the DRC CAP were inclined to keep meeting periodically to hear about the status of the DB Express bus service as well as any rail related initiatives which may be linked to resurrecting the DRC idea.  Therefore I may send out a message from time to time but the subjects are more likely to be either the ACEForward Project being sponsored by the San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission or the Capital Corridor initiative to expand service from Oakland to San Jose. Either or both of these initiatives may (will) impact the level of rail activity in Fremont/Niles. Ensuring the residents have the opportunity to weigh in on their views about the nature of those impacts is essential.

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