Modern Transit Society
web site: moderntransit.org
address: PO Box 5582, San Jose CA 95150
phone: 408-243-6164 FAX 408-243-8562
June 26, 1999
Jim Beall, Chair
Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC)
101 Eighth Street, Oakland, California 94607
Subject: rail study for San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge (SFOBB)
Dear Jim Beall,
MTC has authorized a rail study for the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. Unfortunately, the study is hamstrung by the problem definition, which is how to modify the freeway-on-stilts concept to include rail, a concept that is not built, not designed and not even approved. Not even the existing retrofitted bridge is authorized for study, even though Caltrans itself states that this would be a cheaper solution and is safe.
The restriction of the study eliminates the two most likely rail users: High Speed Rail and regional rail. This is despite the fact that heavy rail trains used the bridge (shown).
MTS and other speakers hammered this point at the public meeting of 6/25/99, including representatives from the Cities of San Francisco and Oakland, both of whom stated that the present study is "unacceptable."
The problem must be redefined as how best to carry rail and motor vehicles, not how best to modify a concept that has the specification of only carrying motor vehicles. The latter will result in a non-optimized solution, one that is more costly and less efficient. This is explained in detail below.
At the minimum, restoring rail on the existing retrofitted bridge must be considered as a possible solution instead of being ruled out in the study. We request that MTC modify the scope of the study to include this possible solution as a minimum, and preferably consider additional alternatives.
There has been a lot of questioning whether the "freeway-on-stilts" concept that is promoted by Caltrans is optimal for even a freeway crossing between Oakland and Yerba Buena. What can be said for certain is that this concept, even with modifications for rail, would result in a non-optimized solution to the problem.
The problem is
"how best to carry rail and motor traffic between Oakland and Yerba Buena."
The problem is not
"how best to modify the freeway-on-stilts concept to carry rail."
If the freeway-on-stilts bridge would already have been built, then this latter problem would be the correct task. But the freeway-on-stilts bridge is not built, not designed, and not even approved.
I (Akos Szoboszlay, MTS President) am a design engineer with 20 years experience in the electronics industry. I have modified many designs as a result of different specifications for a new customer, as well as designed from scratch. In almost all cases, if a modification design had to be done over from the beginning, it would have been done differently. It would have been optimized for the particular set of specifications. Modifying an existing design almost always results in a non-optimized solution, one that is more costly to manufacture. It is also more costly to design if the original design time plus modification design time are added together. It only makes sense to modify an existing design if the product has already been built. We do not have that situation for the new Bay Bridge. But we do have that situation for retrofitting the existing Bay Bridge.
The problem must be redefined as how best to carry rail and motor vehicles, not how best to modify a concept that had the specification of only carrying motor vehicles. The east span rail study must consider bridge alternatives other than just the freeway-on-stilts concept, including retrofitting the existing bridge.