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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Quint St Closure a Fait Accompli?

Last night I attended the BVHP PAC Land Use meeting, at which the future (or lack thereof) of Redevelopment Agencies was discussed, as was the landscaping plan for Third at Cargo Way.  The issue that got me to the meeting was the proposed closure of Quint St at the Caltrain overpass.

To refresh your memory, there are four separate projects:

1. Proposed Oakdale Ave Caltrain station
2. Quint St bridge
3. Jerrold Ave bridge (completed)
4. Quint/Jerrold connector road

We were told by SFCTA Deputy Planning Director Tilly Chang that a 2005 study indicates that the site could just barely accommodate a station at Oakdale Ave.  The station design that was thought to be best had two outer platforms with two tracks side by side between them.  This study took into account electrification, the bullet train, and local service. From p.54 of the final report from that study,

"With the two-platform option, the platforms could be built initially at a narrower width of 20 feet, and then widened to 30 feet when the additional third and fourth tracks were built. This would also allow the Quint Street Bridge replacement to be built at a narrower width, then if necessary, widened in the future to accommodate third and fourth tracks."

Fast forward to 2012.  There is $25M in the pot to replace the Quint St. bridge.  To replace it in-kind, "at a narrower width", as was done at Jerrold Ave., it would cost $25M.  To design it such that it can be "widened in the future to accommodate third and fourth tracks", and this is the very plan that was recommended in the 2005 report.  However, according to Ms. Chang, this option is no longer on the table.  What?!?  Another option, to replace the bridge with one already wide enough to accommodate all four sets of tracks would be $35M, but the extra $10M is nowhere to be found.  According to Ms. Chang, this leaves us with only one solution: close Quint St., erect a 20' high earthen berm across it, and divert Quint along the western edge of the train tracks so that it meets up with Jerrold right at the Produce Market and the soon-to-be-reconfigured Jerrold/Rankin/Kirkwood/Innes intersection.  According to Ms. Chang, this plan would cost $25M.  Or would it?

To erect the berm and put tracks on top is proposed to be $20M.  The remaining $5M from the pot of money would then have to get transferred to another agency, DPW I believe, to do the work on the Quint/Jerrold connector road.  According to Ms. Chang, to do this might cost $5M, but it might also be $6M, or $7M, or $8M, depending on what they find in the soil and what remediation needs to be done.  The $5M might also get snapped up by another cash-strapped agency or project, leaving us with no connector road at all.  This was a concern leveled by Linda Richardson, chair of the BVHP PAC Land Use committee, and one that we ought to take very seriously.

After much discussion about the berm plan, including ridiculous interjections by some bureaucrat who claimed that no one will miss Quint being closed because it's always flooded out in the wintertime anyway, I asked, "Why has there been no mention of the option to replace the bridge in-kind for $25M with one that can be expanded in the future when a station is approved to be built?"  Ms. Chang's response was that this option was off the table because it didn't allow for the station, despite this being the very plan that the 2005 final study indicates is the best option.  Ms. Richardson quickly shut down this line of discussion, saying something about being concerned we'd lose the station if we did this and also something about the SFPUC's plans for the digesters on the east side of the track benefiting from closure of Quint. 

Missing from the berm and Quint/Jerrold connector road plans presented last night, which by the way were identical to those proposed at the November community meeting, was any mention of the SF Produce Market's plans to reconfigure Jerrold Ave traffic on the west side of the bridge so that it is diverted around the market onto Kirkwood and Innes Aves.  The berm/connector plan creates a complicated intersection for the proposed Quint/Jerrold connector road, as it would then put drivers squarely into the new Rankin/Kirkwood/Innes interchange that comes with the Produce Market's plan.  The DPW rep at last night's meeting was just as unprepared to answer Michael Hamman's question about how this would be addressed as he was when I asked it of him two months ago.  If DPW is to take the lead on this phase of any project, I'm scared.

Without question, the 100-year old Quint St bridge is a safety concern, and it must be replaced as soon as possible.  If the bridge fails as a result of all these delays in its replacement, it's not going to be a pedestrian or car driver who gets killed, but rather hundreds of Caltrain riders plunging to the street below, followed by a months-long service elimination on the line.  As such, it is up to Caltrain to replace the bridge, which they're rightfully anxious and ready to do, and its irresponsible for every other agency involved to delay this bridge replacement by even a single day.

Caltrain already has a $25M bridge replacement plan that takes into consideration a future station and the $25M to do it - let them.  Follow the recommendations of the 2005 Final Report and replace the bridge in-kind with a $25M expandable bridge.  Caltrain can worry about finding the money to expand it when and if we ever see a station at Oakdale.

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