Here’s the latest on The Central Subway from SaveMUNI.com:
“SUMMARY: Despite Muni’s anticipated celebration of the receipt of the federal grant agreement for the Central Subway, SaveMuni.com cautions that the project is still not a done deal because, as set forth in the lawsuit, the current plan violates Section 4.113 of the San Francisco City Charter.
In approving its grant agreement (FFGA) for the subway, the federal government has opted to ignore the City Charter, which it is free to do. However, since Muni cannot ignore the City Charter, SaveMuni.com urges the agency to refrain from spending any federal funds on the project until it has a legally approved plan, because any and all federal funds spent on an unapproved project are at risk to being returned to the federal government.
BACKGROUND: On Wednesday October 10, 2012, a lawsuit was filed in Superior Court on behalf of SaveMuni.com. The lawsuit seeks to prevent the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) from extending a subway station into Union Square, a public park, without the approval of the San Francisco electorate as required under SF City Charter Section 4.113. If our lawsuit is successful, the SFMTA will have the choice of either finding a station location that does not intrude upon Union Square or putting the question to a public vote.
Other SaveMuni.com actions now under active consideration include a plan to qualify an initiative measure for next year’s San Francisco ballot that would bring a halt to the Central Subway project unless and until the SFMTA demonstrates that it has met the Muni operational performance standards set forth in the City Charter.
As SaveMuni.com representatives have stated many times in public testimony, and as set forth and laid out in detail on SaveMuni.com’s website, the violation referred to above is just one of many major flaws embedded in the SFMTA’s Central Subway program.
Until recently, we had expected that the Federal Transportation Administration (FTA) would react to these flaws by rejecting the Central Subway as a candidate for a federal New Starts grant. Our confidence that the FTA would act appropriately in this matter was based on the explicit New Starts enabling legislation (49 USC §5303 Sections c, d and g) and on the FTA’s exemplary past record of guarding the federal treasury. In the past, the FTA acted under a comprehensive set of rigorous cost-effectiveness guidelines designed to prevent federal funds from being squandered on local boondoggles. Unless a candidate New Starts project met the standards it simply didn’t make it through the approval process. However, we have found that in recent years politics has watered down the FTA’s traditional record of professionalism.
For the past 5 years, the government of San Francisco has steadfastly refused to listen to a long and growing list of Central Subway opponents, including over 50 neighborhood groups, the Sierra Club, the San Francisco City Attorney, the San Francisco Civil Grand Jury, former elected officials who now regret having approved the project and other officials who privately ridicule it, the residents and businesses of North Beach, at least two former Mayors and 235 members of the US House of Representatives.
With the FTA having abdicated its watchdog responsibilities, it appears that SaveMuni.com, the Coalition of San Francisco Neighbors and the other San Francisco neighborhood, environmental and civic groups opposed to the project are the only remaining fiscal watchdogs still trying to turn the SFMTA’s attention back to its long neglected 70 existing bus and rail lines.
If despite our efforts, the government of San Francisco remains on its current path, it appears that San Francisco will suffer six years of severe construction disruption followed by the advent of a marginally useful and money-losing Central Subway operation. Among the adverse effects of the Central Subway are the $15.2 million a year it would add to the cost of operating and maintaining Muni and the diversion of Muni’s existing light rail T-Line from AT&T Park, the San Francisco waterfront, the Ferry Building, the Financial District and the Market Street subway lines. And finally, there is the fact that the Central Subway somehow manages to miss 25 of the 30 east-west transit lines it crosses, including all the lines on and under Market Street and all the lines on Mission Street.
In addition to the local effects, the project would drain away an unnecessary $61.3 million in State 1A HSR connectivity bond money from the essentially bankrupt State of California to allegedly connect the Central Subway to California’s future HSR system, when in fact it would actually disconnect the existing T-Line from that system.
Even more damaging is the plan to deny other, more deserving Muni projects a total of $306 million in State 1B rail bond money that is currently earmarked for the Central Subway project.
And finally, the Central Subway program, if it proceeds, will eat up no less than $942 million in federal funds at a time when the U.S. federal government can ill afford to waste resources on politically-inspired local pet projects.
Tomorrow’s execution of the federal grant agreement for the Central Subway will formalize the refusal of San Francisco’s politicians to seriously consider the obvious major flaws in the project. For this reason SaveMuni.com is seeking redress before the SF Superior Court to force these politicians to let the people of San Francisco decide whether or not they want to proceed with the Central Subway project as currently configured.”