Two of the most pressing challenges in our region are traffic and housing. For the past two years, I've been working to address the housing crisis and traffic congestion in our County. In my new role as San Mateo County's representative on the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, I am also addressing traffic on the regional level as well.
As Bay Area residents, we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform our transportation network into a system that is accessible, seamless, convenient, affordable and sustainable.
I am continuing to advocate on behalf of residents in District 4, San Mateo County and the region for a transportation system that works for all of us.
Here's my op-ed that ran in Daily Journal that explains the vital role that Dumbarton Rail can play in a modern transportation:
In early July, a poll of voters in the nine Bay Area Counties was released showing a solid majority would support up to a $3 increase in bridge tolls to pay for significant upgrades to our transportation system.
It is clear that voter’s frustration with traffic has reached a breaking point. With the passage of Senate Bill 1 ($52 billion in state dollars), the potential for Regional Measure 3 (the bridge toll increase), a potential half-cent sales tax plan in San Mateo County, along with federal dollars, we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to create a transportation network that will significantly ease our current traffic congestion and develop a long-range vision for the future.
Historically, our task here in San Mateo County was to figure out how to move people to San Francisco, which used to be the job center of the Bay Area. But patterns have changed over the last several decades and we have grown to the point of having close to 500,000 jobs on the Peninsula and South Bay. This reality forces us to seriously rethink the entire equation. With BART being extended in the East Bay to San Jose and a connection with Caltrain, we will effectively have rail around the Bay. With the growing concentration of new jobs in southern San Mateo and Northern Santa Clara County, we need to expand our thinking and ambitions.
“Sacramento to Silicon Valley in one hour” is the vision I would like to promote. While this may be many years away from reality, I am convinced that with new technology and faster speeds it will be possible at some point. The reality today is that we must embrace the concept of a “mega-region” that includes the Bay Area, Sacramento and San Joaquin Valley. How do we connect these areas by rail and enable people to find more affordable housing and be able to get to work in a timely fashion?
The idea of Dumbarton Rail has been around for decades. It gained steam when SamTrans purchased the Dumbarton right of way, from Redwood City to the East Bay, an 11.5-mile stretch. This includes an abandoned rail bridge that has deteriorated over the years. The sticking point for rail has always been insufficient riders to justify this project. Currently, however, SamTrans is finalizing a study of the Dumbarton highway and rail corridor, scheduled to be released later this summer. I anticipate that new ridership numbers will begin to reflect the enormous job growth in the Peninsula and South Bay and the value of potential connections to BART, Capitol Corridor and ACE rail. Taken together, these connections could create the groundwork for the emerging mega-region.
Under this scenario, Dumbarton rail is the key missing link to seizing an historic opportunity to address our two most complex issues, traffic and access to affordable housing. In the months ahead, it is critical you stay tuned to this debate and make your voices heard. We need to get this right.
Warren Slocum represents District 4 on the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors and is a member of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission.