SAN BRUNO — City officials will pour $350,000 over the next two years into an effort to keep up with Caltrain as a project to upgrade the city's rail crossings rockets forward on a high-speed schedule.
The money and the manpower it will buy are intended to help San Bruno keep the $165 million project on track for a July state funding deadline. Because the upgrades — which include overpasses at four rail crossings, known as grade separations, and a new train station — are in San Bruno, the city and Caltrain have to work together to complete them.
Officials also hope the extra resources will allow them to keep an eye on Caltrain and make sure design features such as landscaping and an elevator at the station will not be left out of the project's final plans. At present only two city staff members and one consultant are working on the designs with Caltrain, said Klara Fabry, San Bruno's public services director. She added that public works staff members also are reviewing how utilities such as water and sewer pipes will be affected by the work.
That should change soon. The City Council voted unanimously at its Tuesday meeting to free up $250,000 in redevelopment agency funds to hire consultants or temporary staff this year and another $100,000 the year after that. The money can be used for the project because it is inside the city's redevelopment zone, Fabry said. She added that no decision has been made yet on whether the city will hire staff or use consultants.
Caltrain's rush to get the project moving comes after years of delay and waiting. Officials and residents have been working on the project since 2002 but Caltrain authorities mothballed it in 2006 when they decided a statewide maintenance project was more urgent.
The San Bruno project jumped to the front of the line this summer when Caltrain applied for and got a $30 million grant from the state. However, Caltrain and San Bruno have to start the project by July or lose the money.
The sped-up schedule means both agencies are scrambling to get the project underway. If the group meets the deadline for the state funding, the remaining $135 million will come primarily from the San Mateo County Transportation Authority, which is funded by a half-cent sales tax.
City officials are worried the rush will mean the final product will be less than they had bargained for through a series of meetings between the city, the public and Caltrain.
"You know what happens when things are fast-tracked," said Councilman Rico Medina at Tuesday's meeting.
Caltrain officials have been silent on the topic so far, except to say they might not have enough money to pay for everything San Bruno wants.