A new Caltrain vehicle headed to San Francisco

The Transportation Authority Board earlier this year convened a panel of experts to evaluate the delivery strategy for the Caltrain Downtown Rail Extension Project. The project is a 2-mile underground rail tunnel that will extend Caltrain and High-Speed Rail service from 4th and King to the Salesforce Transit Center. Given the project’s importance, cost, and complexity, the Transportation Authority board commissioned this review to ensure the project’s success. The Transportation Authority is one of the project’s major funders. 

The independent peer panel was comprised of experts with local, national, and international experience in engineering, funding, and project delivery. Over the past several months, the panel reviewed project data, held interviews and hosted workshops with stakeholder agencies, and reviewed case studies of similar megaprojects. After extensive discussion and analysis, the panel has released their recommendations in a final report (PDF). 

Some key findings include: 

The need for an updated management approach: The peer review panel recommends that a new integrated team be formed to develop the project, under the continued oversight of the Transbay Joint Powers Authority (TJPA). The new project team will include additional representation from the region, particularly agencies that specialize in project funding and project delivery. Participating agencies would include TJPA, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, Caltrain, CA High Speed Rail Authority, City and County of San Francisco, and the Transportation Authority.

A 2-year work program to ready the project for construction: The panel proposes that the updated management team implement a two-year work program that will position the rail project to be competitive for federal and state funds and prepare delivery plans, with a goal to extend Caltrain service (and eventual High Speed Rail) to the Salesforce Transit Center by 2028. This process will determine which agency(ies) should lead the project into the construction phase. 

Governance agreement: Agencies involved in the new management team would need to sign a Memorandum of Understanding that will outline how the 2-year work program would be implemented and develop funding plans. If these agreements are reached this fall, work on the two-year plan could begin in early 2020. 

The report concludes that the project is at high risk of not advancing in a timely way without moving forward with these recommended changes, and that the proposed plan will strengthen the project’s competitiveness for funding and ultimately expedite project delivery.

The Transportation Authority Board received a presentation on this report at its October 8 meeting. The board voted to give the report initial approval at its October 22nd meeting, and will confirm that vote at its November 5th meeting.


Expert Panel Final Report on Downtown Extension Rail Program (PDF)
Transportation Authority Board Resolution, October 8, 2019 (PDF)
Board Presentation, October 8, 2019 (PDF)

Related Content

The Salesforce Transit Center is San Francisco’s new regional transit hub.

The Downtown Extension is a plan to extend Caltrain and future California High-Speed Rail service from 4th and King rail yard to the newly-constructed Salesforce Transit Center.

The Caltrain Electrification project will bring fully electrified service to Caltrain.