San Francisco Mayor to NYC: “Eat Your Heart Out.”

transbay-transit-center-rendering-small1.jpgA rendering of the Transbay Transit Center with a 5.4 acre park on its roof.
At a groundbreaking ceremony for the long-awaited Transbay Transit Center in San Francisco yesterday, Mayor Gavin Newsom asserted the project will be "so much more extraordinary than Grand Central Station."

Pointing to the renderings on a projection screen behind him, with a 5.4 acre park atop the terminal, 2600 units of housing (with a pledge of 35% affordable homes), the construction of the tallest building in the West, and a terminal expected to serve 100,000 daily riders, Mayor Newsom added: "Eat your heart out, New York City."

If the city manages to find the $2 billion necessary to complete the project, San Francisco's transit hub would be finished in 2014, 101 years after Cornelius Vanderbilt opened the doors to New York's Grand Central Terminal.

The Transbay Transit Center, a public-private partnership headed by the Transbay Joint Powers Authority (TJPA), will replace the existing Transbay Terminal with a multi-modal transportation hub that would serve nine transportation systems in the same complex, including the potential California High Speed Rail route through San Francisco.  

Mayor Newsom and several other speakers stressed the economic significance of a large-scale construction project as the overall economy sours and the city makes budget cuts.  

Nathaniel Ford, Sr., Chairman of the TJPA and head of MUNI, argued that "without projects like this, we will not be able to provide mobility for the growing population of California, and bring together the fractured public transportation system in San Francisco."  

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Mayor Gavin Newsom, former Mayor Willie Brown, and board members of the Transbay Joint Powers Authority

Though the project design is impressive, funding remains a daunting obstacle. As outlined in the excellent feature story by Steve Jones in the San Francisco Bay Guardian yesterday, the TJPA has not found the money to pay for the entire project and may be relying on state funding that won't materialize, especially with California's ballooning budget deficit.

While the TJPA has suggested that it hopes the Transbay Transit Center will catch the eye of President-elect Barack Obama's team, as it expedites construction projects for the fiscal stimulus package early next year, it will be only one of many transit projects competing with the road and bridge lobby, which is already circling the wagons nationally and in California.

"It's exciting to see the first shovel in the soil for the new terminal and there are still real concerns about how we raise the additional $2 billion or so for the project," said Dave Snyder, transportation policy director for San Francisco Planning and Urban Research. "But this is a perfect public works project for the new century."

Below are the various renderings of the proposed terminal as presented by Mayor Newsom and the TJPA at the groundbreaking:

transbay-transit-center-natoma-street-small1.jpg
The Natoma Street facade

transbay-transit-center-light-column-small1.jpg
The center light column from below...

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... and above.

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The view from Mission Square

Photo: Matthew Roth