Construction of a new South San Francisco Caltrain station is a year and a half behind schedule and $16.6 million over budget.
The project, which will build a new 700-foot center platform and pedestrian underpass, is delayed because it took longer than expected to secure required Caltrans permits and because of challenges relocating utilities. Originally set for completion in June of this year, the project is now expected to wrap up in November 2020.
Caltrain, which is sponsoring the project along with the city of South San Francisco, accepted responsibility for the delays.
“Culpability falls clearly on joint powers board project management,” Gary Fleming, director, capital program delivery for Caltrain, said during a San Mateo Transportation Authority meeting Thursday.
At that meeting, the TA, which oversees the county’s sales tax revenue earmarked for transportation, unanimously agreed to allocate an additional $11.3 million to help cover cost overruns, bringing its contribution to the project to $21.6 million.
The project now totals $71.6 million up from the initial budget of $55 million.
TA board members were not thrilled about the cost overruns, but said the project will be worth it.
“It’s a tough and bitter pill to swallow, but it’s well worth the extra dollars,” said TA Board Member Carlos Romero, also a East Palo Alto councilman. “I’m sorry we have to pay for it, but I think in the long run the public benefits tremendously from this.”
Romero added that the existing South San Francisco Caltrain station was in dire need of upgrades and expects the new one to be used by many more people.
“South San Francisco’s train station is a horrible station, there’s no wayfinding and you have to go up some 60 steps on a rickety old bridge,” he said. “This is a fabulous project in the sense that both the growth in South San Francisco, the way [the city] is placing its housing and office growth is such that this station is going to be utilized much more.”
Other funding sources for the project include a $9.9 million contribution by South San Francisco, $1.3 million from Caltrain and $38.8 million worth of federal grants.
Fleming said the project would cost significantly more if construction happened after electrification of the Caltrain corridor, which is expected to be complete by 2022.
The new center platform will eliminate the “holdout rule” at the station, which prevents trains from entering the station while another train is there. That rule is in place because the current platform configuration forces passengers to cross the tracks to board trains.
The project will also improve ADA access, the pedestrian underpass will connect the city’s business district with downtown and a shuttle drop-off will be constructed on the east side of the station.
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