Budget shortfalls and funding drama have been the name of the game in the construction of the $2.25 billion Transbay Transit Center project going back several years. And now, the six-story, four-block-long transit terminal, which for the foreseeable future will just be a bus terminal, is short $260 million to assure its completion, without which construction might have to shut down this summer. This means that the city and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission will likely be loaning the project that money, to be paid back over five to ten years via the special assessment taxes on high-rise property owners in the district, as the Chronicle reports.
The only problem is that tax revenue is earmarked for other things, like the expensive five-acre rooftop park that is the signature element of the Transit Center, and the DTX or Downtown Rail Extension, the vital Phase Two of this project, which will extend the Caltrain tracks underground from Fourth and King Streets to First and Mission an as yet unfunded phase that's currently estimated to cost an additional $2.5 billion.
Says Supervisor Jane Kim, who is expected to vote in favor of the loan, "Every dollar that goes into phase one is no longer available for phase two. That is the biggest concern."
Meanwhile, Supervisor Aaron Peskin is going to reject the proposed loan, and has repeated the common critics' assessment of the project as a "billion-dollar bus station." He also points to the possible mismanagement of the project, and last week's ouster of Transbay Joint Powers Authority executive director Maria Ayerdi-Kaplan, by the agency's board.
But, TJPA board Chairman Greg Harper tells the paper that there's basically no choice but to make this loan at this point. "You can’t just not complete a construction project of this size, or even delay it," he says. He's likely correct in that stopping and restarting construction would inevitable just cost more money.
As we learned back in 2014, the Transbay folks are aiming to sell off naming rights, both of the transit hub and the rooftop park, in order to make back some of this money, and there also stands to be a large revenue stream once the center is complete and its 100,000 square feet of retail space is leased out. The Board of Supervisors now says they want to approve all those leases, too.
The city also still has one parcel of land in the Transbay District left to sell, Parcel F on Howard Street, for a possible $160 million, but this parcel has proven hard to sell.
Meanwhile, just last month, the other signature element of the Transit Center, designed by Pelli Clark Pelli also the firm behind Salesforce Tower began appearing at the site, which is the perforated metal "skin" that will make the whole thing pretty and wrap the length the structure.
The Transit Center is expected to open to bus traffic, if it stays on schedule, by late 2017. When and if Caltrain or the high-speed rail ever reaches it is anyone's guess.