Sticker Shock. In apples-to-apples 2010 dollars, the cost has soared from $4.7 billion (2008 Business Plan) to $5.4 billion (2009 Business Plan) to a jaw-dropping $13.6 billion (2012 Business Plan). And that's just the start. The $13.6 billion estimate is for Option A from the Alternatives Analysis, which is the all-viaduct-and-no-tunnel option. Community demands for trenches and tunnels will only bid up the price from there. Toss in the San Francisco DTX tunnel and convert to YOE dollars, and the cost goes right off the charts. Amazingly, the business plan does not actually specify how the new peninsula costs break down. The changes in each sub-total have to be backed out from available information, as shown below from 2009 to 2012:
Until Hell Freezes Over. Under the phased implementation plan described in the Business Plan, the peninsula rail corridor might not get improved until the late 2020's, so any hope that Caltrain had to get HSR money for capital projects, blended or not, is pretty much on hold for a long, long time. A solid plan B will be required for Caltrain, without relying on the HSR tooth fairy.
Three Things: Concrete, Concrete, and Concrete. The most significant cost increases, on the peninsula and statewide, are due to a breathtaking increase in the scope of concrete-pouring. The $13.6 billion peninsula figure includes $3.9 billion for viaducts, $3.1 billion for tunnels, about $2 billion for buildings and stations, and nearly a billion for earthwork and retaining walls (the dreaded berms). Oh, and by the way, the business plan was prepared based on cost estimates from civil engineering firms, firms that get to define the scope of the project on which they may later bid.
Atherton Real Estate is Cheap. The feared eminent domain battles for whatever corridor expansion might be planned barely show up in the bottom line, with a mere $830 million or six percent of the peninsula budget allocated to Right of Way acquisition.
The Astronomical Cost of Accommodating Caltrain. While the current paradigm may be that HSR would operate in the Caltrain corridor, the business plan cost numbers (and especially the must-read cost increase numbers) suggest quite the opposite, with Caltrain cast in the role of the expensive interloper. There are surprisingly high cost numbers built into the 2012 Business Plan to build over/under/next to Caltrain even while it continues operating. For example:
- $2.3 billion (2010$) of additional viaduct construction expenses, "associated with staged construction, loss of efficiency, and allowance for force account and premium pay - all to account for continuous support of rail operations in the corridor."
- $1.9 billion (2010$) for a single-track tunnel to squeeze four tracks through Millbrae between neighborhoods, planned developments, and BART, in an area where "soils are very poor"-- a tunnel that would have no reason to be built without Caltrain. The cost of this tunnel was previously decried at $0.5 billion, but this is something else entirely: the single-track tunnel, built in the same "very poor" soils as the triple-track Millbrae BART tunnel, would cost significantly more than the entire BART to SFO extension project.
- $0.75 billion (2010$) to build a duplicate set of tunnels along the Bayshore Cutoff into San Francisco-- multiple tunnels that would have even less reason to be built without Caltrain.
That a peninsula BART extension would be suggested as a cost-saving measure is flabbergasting indeed, but this Business Plan fairly well guarantees it.