It’s been a while since we checked in at the Transbay Terminal project…and, yikes, maybe it’s better if you don’t look.
First up, the Transbay Terminal project faces a $260 million shortfall:
San Francisco’s beleaguered Transbay Transit Center may get a $260 million emergency bailout from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and Wells Fargo in order to keep construction on the transit hub going this summer, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.
The financing would borrow $100 million from the MTC and $160 million from Wells Fargo, to be paid back over five years to 10 years…
“The unusual loan, which would be paid back over the next five to 10 years with taxes collected from developers and property owners in the neighborhood’s burgeoning high-rise district, is proposed as projected costs on the transit center have climbed $360 million in the past two years alone,” the paper reports. “Since 2008, project costs have soared by $1 billion.”
That isn’t the first time the Transbay Terminal has turned to such loans – earlier they got a $171 million bridge loan from the Vampire Squid (aka Goldman Sachs). And while SF real estate seems like a sure thing, using those taxes for Transbay Terminal construction leaves less available for the key part of the project, the downtown rail extension to serve Caltrain and high speed rail.
That matters, because San Francisco leaders are accusing the California High Speed Rail Authority of of shorting them by $1.5 billion for the downtown extension:
The letter, to Chairman Dan Richard and board members, says the city’s Transbay Transit Center’s funding from the High-Speed Rail Authority “will be reduced by $1.5 billion to $550 million,” citing the authority’s recently revised draft 2016 business plan.
The San Francisco officials called the rail agency funding “an integral part” of financing the planned Caltrain/high-speed rail extension to the new transit hub.
The missive, obtained by the Business Times, asks the rail authority to reinstate the funding and make San Francisco, instead of San Jose, the terminus of its initial bullet-train tracks.
But did the Authority ever actually say they were going to spend $2 billion on the DTX in the 2016 Business Plan? According to Lisa Marie Alley, they never did:
A spokeswoman for the CHSRA denied that funding was being cut. A reference to $2 billion in an earlier version of the 2016 business plan was “erroneous,” she said. “Our commitment to the extension remains intact and as it was — for $557 million.”
This whole letter looks to me like SF leaders taking a lesson from the Legislature and trying to blame the Authority for problems outside the Authority’s control.
California remains one of the richest places anywhere on the planet, with a GDP larger than all but six other countries. The state legislature, therefore, has access to trillions of dollars to do things like help finish the Transbay Terminal and the downtown extension and HSR itself.
While it would be good if Congress stepped up and played their part, California can pay for high speed rail all by itself. There’s no reason for the Transbay Terminal to be taking out big loans on Wall Street, or for SF and the CHSRA to be pointing fingers at each other. The legislature needs to lead.