Examining the High Cost for San Francisco's Central Subway and Transbay Terminal - NBC Bay Area
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Examining the High Cost for San Francisco's Central Subway and Transbay Terminal

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    Examining the High Cost for San Francisco's Central Subway

    A mathematician who crunched the numbers on major projects realized the United States is paying two to three times as much for transit projects as its European and Asian counterparts. Sam Brock reports.

    (Published Tuesday, June 19, 2018)

    A mathematician who crunched the numbers on major projects realized the United States is paying two to three times as much for transit projects as its European and Asian counterparts.

    It turns out San Francisco's version of the 'Big Dig' -- a pair of titanic transportation projects set to transform the region -- could also be a 'deeper dig' into the widening pockets of taxpayers.

    "San Francisco is not unusually expensive for America," said Paris-based mathematician and researcher Alon Levy. "It's just that America is unusually expensive for the world."

    Levy projects the tab for the Central Subway at just under $1 billion per mile of track. And the future extension from the Transbay Terminal to Caltrain? Levy projects the project to cost $3 billion per mile of track.

    Similar projects in Tokyo and Paris cost half that or less.

    "It absolutely rings alarm bells. And so, we need to be looking at what are they doing in Tokyo? What are they doing in Paris? And how can we model some of that and bring it back here?" Bay Area Council COO John Grubb said.

    The Bay Area Council is an advocacy group backed by the biggest companies in the Bay Area. Grubb said labor is more expensive here than most parts of the world.

    “There’s uncertainty, that’s just baked in because someone may be working on a project for a long time, and then because of our review process...it stops," Grubb said. "And so the borrowing costs, because of the uncertainly, is much higher.”

    In the age of President Donald Trump and tarriffs, Grubb said "there is no question" delivery costs are going to soar even higher.

    Meanwhile, the Transbay Terminal opens for buses, but does not have a deadline or even planned path yet to connect to Caltrain. Phase 2, the actual extension to Caltrain, is technically "on hold" because officials still need to pin down funding.

    Right now, the terminal is basically a bus depot with a grand hall and bus deck across the street set to open in a couple months -- but no trains for the foreseeable future.

    The cost of the Transbay Terminal and Central Subway are costing taxpayers a premium.

    The projects are designed to make it easier to get around San Francisco

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