So, who among you remembers cycling across Crystal Springs Dam Road? If you don’t, it’s no surprise because we are approaching the 8th anniversary of its closing. Yes, Crystal Springs Dam Road has been closed for eight years: it closed on October 21, 2010—can you believe it? Admittedly the reason for the ridiculously prolonged closure is not entirely bogus. The construction of the replacement dam, which sits on the San Andreas Fault, had to be done conservatively. But as with Calaveras Road there is something about major public works projects that almost always causes them to spiral out of control and blow their timelines. The number of times San Mateo County Public Works has had to revise the opening date is embarrassing. I just glanced online and saw one estimate as “2017”. Seriously? We are almost two years later!
The last estimate of reopening was September 2018 but at the last minute it was pushed back to “mid-October”. Their webpage hasn’t been revised since and we are now just past mid-October and there isn’t even an announcement of a date for the “grand reopening ceremony”. In other words, they’ve blown their deadline again and we haven’t a clue as to when they will reopen it. I emailed the Senior Civil Engineer, Carter Choi, a few days ago about a revised estimate and surprise, surprise I haven’t heard a thing (I didn’t hear from him when I asked the same question in August—I guess he’s too busy “working” to answer his email). I just called SM Public Works and their receptionist says “mid-November”. Of course the engineers weren’t available to talk.
So how believable is that “mid-November”? Does shit even get done at public agencies near the holidays??
San Mateo’s repeated bad estimates mirror that of another public agency, BART. The Warm Spring extension was initally projected to open in 2014, five years after groundbreaking. It didn’t open until 2017, three years late. We are now awaiting the opening of the two stations just to the south, Milpitas and Berryessa. Both were scheduled to open in December 2017. Then there were problems integrating the new electrical control system to the old existing system, and that pushed the opening to June of this year, which didn’t happen, and the new opening was set for maybe the end of 2018 but probably more like early 2019. (Didn’t they run into those same system issues with the Warm Springs station? If so, why didn’t they revise their timeline before?) So now they’re three years behind schedule for Berryessa.
Now comes word that equipment was installed in the two stations that was not “compliant” (they were used and not new) and has to be removed, replaced, and then tested again. Now the rough estimate is Milpitas and Berryessa won’t open any earlier than “late 2019”. The Santa Clara Valley Transit Authority has requested a FTA extension with a deadline to begin service of December 31, 2019. Of course they could easily refile for another extension. Earlier this year we were thinking we could use Milpitas BART to get to the start of the Mt. Hamilton in the Fall ride. That is off the table for next year as well.
We have no inkling as to the actual sequence of events that leads to these delays. Why do agencies continue to mouth overly optimistic opening dates? They should know from previous miscalculations that the error is, say, roughly three years and then add that to their public announcements. One wonders if the delays are due to truly unforeseeable circumstances or whether it is really due to mediocre oversight of contractors and/or inept planning.
Will I even be alive when BART opens these stations??