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SamTrans Board adopts ‘Pathway Forward’ compromise

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The SamTrans Board of Directors unanimously voted Wednesday in favor of the transit agency’s proposed “Pathway Forward” compromise that aims to end a longstanding political stalemate with colleagues in San Francisco and Santa Clara, who are seeking changes to the governance of Caltrain.

The proposal seeks to satisfy a desire by transit representatives from San Francisco and Santa Clara to have more control over Caltrain’s governance, while also setting forth reimbursements to SamTrans for costs it incurred from purchasing the Caltrain right of away in the early 1990s. Pathway Forward is next headed for review at the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board (JPB) meeting today, which begins at 9 a.m. (Zoom).

For more than 18 months, JPB representatives from San Francisco and Santa Clara have been at an impasse on the issue of Caltrain governance with their SamTrans colleagues. While members of San Francisco and Santa Clara want to claim back certain managing agent rights of Caltrain, including the ability to hire and fire Caltrain’s executive director, SamTrans wants to be repaid for costs related to the right of way purchase. The resulting impasse has “incurred hundreds of thousands of dollars of costs,” according to SamTrans Acting GM Carter Mau.

SamTrans has pitched Pathway Forward as a compromise to end the stalemate. The proposal would set forward a path that, in part, empowers the JPB with the ability to hire and fire the Caltrain executive director, and that also reimburses SamTrans a total of $35 million for costs related to its purchase of the right of away.

In the early 1990s, SamTrans put up the $82 million needed to purchase the Caltrain right of way from Southern Pacific, and was thus granted management authority of the transit agency per the Joint Powers Agreement, which included the right to hire and fire Caltrain’s executive director. In 2008, according to SamTrans officials, “this right was permanently sold to SamTrans in agreements for over $38 million and in exchange for the agency fronting the costs of purchasing the right of way from Southern Pacific when San Francisco and Santa Clara counties lacked the funds to do so on their own.”

Click here to view the full copy of SamTrans’ Pathway Forward proposal.

Disclaimer: Adam Alberti, the publisher of Climate Magazine, is Managing Director at Singer Associates, Inc. SamTrans is represented by Singer Associates.