MEMORANDUM

 

 February 6, 2002

 

TO:                 MEMBERS, PORT COMMISSION

Hon. Michael Hardeman, President

Hon. Kimberly Brandon, Vice President

Hon. Brian McWilliams

                                    Hon. Denise McCarthy

                                    Hon. Pius Lee

 

FROM:                       Douglas F. Wong

Executive Director

 

SUBJECT:     Proposed Illinois Street Freight Rail and Truck Bridge Project – Commission Hearing to Receive Public Comments

 

ACTON:        No Action, Receive Public Comments

 

 

Summary

The Port proposes to construct the Illinois Street Freight Rail and Truck Bridge, to create a direct transportation connection over Islais Creek, between the North and South Cargo Terminals.  This memorandum provides a detailed description of the Bridge project and funding requirements, regulatory requirements, and construction schedule.  In addition, this staff report outlines the Port’s extensive engineering analysis and community outreach efforts to develop a project that responds to public questions and concerns.  In response to public request, the Port Commission has scheduled a public hearing on February 12, 2002 to receive public comments on this important Port maritime project.

 

Project Description

The Port of San Francisco began planning the Illinois Street Rail/Vehicle Bridge in the mid-1980’s as part of its efforts to improve the North and South Cargo Terminals on Piers 80, and 94-96. Recognizing that efficient transportation access by train and truck is essential to successfully marketing and operating terminals, the Port proposed that the Bridge extend Illinois Street over Islais Creek to provide an efficient inter-terminal connection.  At that time, the Port also recognized that such a Bridge would reduce traffic on Third Street, particularly at Cargo Way, which today is considered to be even more desirable because Third and Cargo Way have been identified as an important gateway to Bayview Hunters Point.

 

Port engineering staff have carried out substantial engineering, design and cost estimate studies to develop a conceptual design for the Illinois Street Rail/Vehicle Bridge.  The proposed Bridge will be approximately 31 feet wide, providing two lanes for vehicle traffic, and a single freight railroad track running down the center of the bridge.  Vehicle traffic on the Bridge will be temporarily cleared when freight trains are crossing the Bridge. Vehicle traffic will be able to travel from Illinois Street on the north side of Islais Creek to a new roadway constructed on Port property on the south side of the Creek, which will connect with existing Amador Way and Cargo Way.  The Bridge lanes would be open to bicycles, however there are no pedestrian sidewalks proposed on the Bridge. 

 

Due to extensive fundraising efforts and bridge design research, the Port has found that there are possible bridge designs that are fully moveable, that is, they can be mechanically opened to provide full vessel access westward along Islais Creek.   In its closed position, the Bridge will maintain a clearance equal to that provided by the Levon Hagoop Nishkian Drawbridge on Third Street, located immediately to the west.  The most restrictive clearance would be three feet at high, high water level,  still sufficient to allow kayaks, outrigger canoes and other hand-powered craft to pass with the Bridge closed.  A rendering of a proposed conceptual design for the Bridge is presented in Attachment A.   The estimated cost of the Bridge is $11 million.  The specific bridge design and cost will be determined in a competitive Design/Building bid process.

 

Port Engineering staff have endeavored to design the placement of the Bridge to minimize the amount of  street space occupied and preserve truck loading access to the industrial building across from Pier 80 at 1800 Illinois Street, while still allowing connection to the rail tracks in Illinois Street.  The Bridge would occupy the easternmost portion of the 80-foot wide Illinois Street right of way.  

 

The Bridge will require permits from BCDC, the U.S. Coast Guard, and U. S. Army Corps of Engineers.

 

Project Purpose

The Port has invested over $50 million in the development and maintenance of the North and South Marine Terminals at Pier 80 and Pier 94-96.  Fundamental to any modern terminal is the need to provide freight rail and truck access to allow goods to be shipped through as quickly as possible. While these Port terminals are fully-serviced, able to accommodate container and non-containerized cargo, and thus marketable to wide variety of customers, Pier 80 does not have optimal freight rail access.  The Pier 94-96 terminal enjoys direct freight rail service from the south, via the Quint Street lead.  However, today, freight rail service to Pier 80 is possible only via a circuitous route that requires freight trains to travel north into Mission Bay before they can access tracks on Illinois Street and reverse south to Pier 80.  The Illinois Street Rail/Vehicle Bridge, included in the Port’s cargo terminal modernization plan in the 1980’s, cures this constraint by providing a direct connection over Islais Creek from rail tracks serving Pier 94-96 to the Illinois Street rail tracks on the north side of Islais Creek.  From there, freight trains would be able to directly access Pier 80, resulting in a much shorter, quicker and cheaper route than the existing Mission Bay route. 

 

Attachment B shows the existing freight rail route to Pier 80, as compared to the route with the Illinois Street Rail/Vehicle Bridge.  With the Bridge, the distance between the Quint Street lead and Pier 80 would be 0.66 miles, versus 3.3 miles along the existing route through Mission Bay. The shorter rail route will take far less time, since there will be fewer street grade crossings and less reliance on the street right of way. Traffic hazards and conflicts between railcars,  automobiles, bicycles and pedestrians will also be reduced, thus increasing operational safety and efficiency.  These benefits of rationalizing freight rail service to Pier 80 also were discussed and endorsed by the Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC), in its extensive review and approval of the Mission Bay Plan.  The Bridge would realize objectives of BCDC’s Seaport Plan and, because it would result in elimination of the need for tracks in Mission Bay’s Bayfront Park, it also meet another important BCDC objective of improving public access quality in Mission Bay.

 

In addition to improving access to Pier 80, the bridge will improve the efficiency between the North and South Cargo Terminals.  The rail distance between the Terminals will be reduced from approximately four miles to approximately 0.2 miles. The bridge will provide a direct rail link between Pier 80 and the Intermodal Container Transfer Facility (ICTF, a freight rail yard that allows cargo to be transferred between ships and rail without leaving the terminal) along Cargo Way.  In addition, trucks and vehicles using the Bridge between the terminals and to Cesar Chavez Avenue will relieve and distribute traffic otherwise destined for Third Street and Cesar Chavez via Cargo Way.  

 

The Port has seen increasing interest from prospective maritime tenants that wish to locate at Pier 80 and would be inclined to use rail service.  The high level of traffic congestion of Bay Area freeways and bridges that occurs during much of the business day has increased transportation costs of trucking, thus highlighting the benefits of improved rail efficiency if the Illinois Street  Bridge is built.  In addition, there is concern that construction of the MUNI Third Street light rail transit line, approved by the City, will greatly constrain commercial and industrial short-haul trucks serving businesses in the southeast area of the City, because it will require the removal of two travel lanes on Third Street.  The Bridge would therefore not only improve the viability of freight rail, it also would provide an alternate vehicle route for commercial and industrial businesses in the area.

 

Funding

The estimated construction cost of the current Bridge design is $11 million.  Until relatively recently, the Port’s efforts to secure full funding had been unsuccessful.  In 2000, the Port secured $4.5 million in transportation grant funds approved through the San Francisco Transportation Authority.  Another $2.5 million in project funding has been provided by Catellus Development Corporation, pursuant to the Mission Bay Infrastructure Plan approved by the City. Under the Infrastructure Plan, the $2.5 million funding is available for a limited duration; if the Port does not commence with the Bridge project by November 2003, Catellus will no longer be obligated to provide the funding.  In Fall 2001, the Port negotiated with Catellus to secure an additional $1.8 million.  The remaining $2.2 million in funding will be provided through Port capital funds and the rest by revenues from new Port leases in the Southern Waterfront.

 

Community Outreach

Over the years, the Port has maintained its efforts to realize the Illinois Street Rail/Vehicle Bridge, to aggressively seek and secure funding, and to work with the community to shape the project and build support.  In the early and mid-1990’s, the Port proposed a “lift-segment” bridge design, wherein a crane would have been required to lift a bridge section away to allow passage by large vessels.  Due to funding constraints and the fact that the portion of Islais Creek west of the Third Street Bridge no longer is used for maritime cargo vessel berthing, the Port did not believe that the significant extra cost of a self-powered moveable bridge was justified.  Public comments and concerns from the Friends of Islais Creek, other recreational boating interests, and the Fire Department supported the Bridge idea, but insisted that a fully moveable design be found to preserve the option for possible future access by large vessels or tall sailboats.  In response, the Port’s engineering staff secured consultants to assist the Port in analyzing a wide variety of bridge designs and costs.  After researching bridge designs in the field, staff was able to find examples of moveable bridge designs at much lower costs than drawbridge and other bridge designs previously analyzed.  The Port then focused on securing the additional necessary funding to move forward on the project as it is now proposed.

 

The Illinois Street Bridge was one of several Port projects analyzed in the Southern Waterfront Supplemental EIR (SEIR), which was certified in February 2001.  Prior to publication of the SEIR in September 2000, the City held public scoping meetings to review the projects and land uses that were to be analyzed, including the Illinois Street Rail/Vehicle Bridge. 

 

Once the Port had secured full project funding, Port staff stepped up its community outreach efforts to provide information about the project, and to solicit and respond to community comments.  Below is a list of meetings organized or attended by Port staff to address the Illinois Street Bridge project.  All Port meetings were noticed, and the Port expanded its outreach on its most recent community meeting by mailing notices to property owners within 0 .5 mile of the Bridge site, as well as to those that attended previous community meetings.

 

Date                Group/ Meeting Sponsor

7/30/01            Southern Waterfront Advisory Committee (SWAC)/ Port                                       

8/1/01              Maritime Commerce Advisory Committee (MCAC)/Port

8/4/01              Muwekma Ohlone Park Community/ David Erickson

8/20/01            SWAC/ Port

9/6/01              Southern Waterfront Community at Pier 80/ Port

9/12/01            MCAC/Port

9/17/01            SWAC/ Port

9/ 25/01           Port Commission hearing, action to preserve Mission Bay funding option/ Port

9/25/01            Central Waterfront Community – Better Neighborhoods Planning Workshop/ San Francisco Planning Department

10/10/01          MCAC/Port

10/10/01          Pier 70 Advisory Group/ Port

10/15/01          1800 Illinois Street Owner & Tenants/ Port

10/22/01          Bayview Hunters Point Project Area Committee (BVHP-PAC) Land Use Committee/ BVHP PAC

11/5/01            1800 Illinois Street Owner & Tenants/ Port

11/14/01          MCAC/Port

12/18/01          Southern Waterfront Community at Pier 1/ Port

1/16/01            BVHP Community- MUNI Third Street Light Rail and Nearby City Projects/ BVHP Community and MUNI

 

 

On August 20, 2001, the Southern Waterfront Advisory Committee (SWAC) approved a motion to recommend support of the Illinois Street Bridge, but requested staff to 1) convene at least two additional meetings with the community; 2) investigate ways to provide safe pedestrian and bicycle access; and 3) investigate the possibility of restricting through traffic on the Bridge.  On September 25, 2001, the Port Commission expressed support of the Bridge project, and also directed staff to conduct further community meetings. 

 

On September 12, 2001, the Maritime Commerce Advisory Committee approved a motion recommending support of the Bridge. 

 

Most of the public comments received since then have been generated by the owner and tenants of the warehouse on 1800 Illinois Street, adjacent to the proposed Bridge.  Some of these tenants have been involved in planting the shoreline adjacent to the south side of the Pier 80 terminal, which site has been proposed for further improvement as an open space tribute to the Muwekma Ohlone people.  Accordingly, special meetings with these stakeholders were held to address their concerns and conduct additional engineering and alternative site studies.  Recently, the Port received a letter from the owner of 1800 Illinois Street indicating that he no longer opposes the Bridge project. The following is a summary of the key issues of concern raised in the various community meetings and the Port’s response to each of the issues.  More detailed information about the Bridge project, contained in meeting minutes and community correspondence is available for public review at the Port’s office.

 

Concern: Does the bridge need to include vehicular traffic as opposed to just rail access?  Due to the fact that rail access to Pier 80 is poor, transportation access to that facility has been almost exclusively by truck.  Even with the Bridge constructed, today’s marine terminals cannot operate exclusively by freight rail and must provide efficient truck access to maintain viability.  The Port’s Maritime staff has attended the majority of the community meetings to explain this fact, and answer questions about the relationship between the Illinois Street Bridge and the Port’s maritime terminals.  In addition, the Southern Waterfront SEIR identifies the Bridge as a traffic mitigation measure that would relieve future congestion at the Third Street/Cargo Way intersection by providing a second access route to Cesar Chavez Avenue and I-280.

 

Concern: Could the proposed bridge be shifted to the east, aligned with either Michigan Avenue or the MUNI utility duct bank?   The Port analyzed several alternative alignment and rail configurations.  The constraints with the Michigan Avenue alignment are 1) new rail tracks would not align with the existing tracks in Illinois Street without acquiring private property; 2) increased project costs by $2.5 to 3.7 million; 3) it would cross through and thus hinder or preclude efforts to improve the shoreline adjacent to Pier 80, including those supported by advocates of the Muwekma Ohlone open space.  With respect to the MUNI duct banks (construction of conduits crossing Islais Creek to provide power to the Third Street Light Rail), the Port must maintain a minimum distance from those MUNI (and additionally, Hetch Hetchy Water and Power) utility lines.  The current Bridge alignment location is designed to meet that minimum distance requirement, plus provide a limited additional margin of separation of about 10 feet.  A summary table comparing the various Bridge alignments is provided in Attachment C.

 

Concern: Can the bridge be vertically aligned so that it would not limit truck access to the 1800 Illinois Street Building?  The Port realigned the Bridge so that 40-50 feet of the street right-of-way will remain clear to allow access to 1800 Illinois Street by all types of vehicles and trucks.  Earlier bridge design concepts included a retaining wall in the street right of way, which would have hampered or precluded loading access by large rigs transporting containers.   In discussions with the owner of 1800 Illinois Street, the Port is negotiating modifications that would raise the entire street grade to be flush with the building entrances, eliminating the need for a retaining wall, and therefore any impediment to truck loading by trucks of all sizes. 

 

Concern: Will the bridge reduce the number of parking spaces in the vicinity of the proposed bridge?  The Port conducted a parking space survey of the area and developed a parking re-striping program that preserves the existing number of on-street parking spaces on Illinois, between 25th Street and Islais Creek.

 

Concern: Would the proposed bridge limit access or interfere with either Tulare Park or the Muwekma Ohlone Open Space?  Tulare Park, located on the north side of Islais Creek,between Illinois and Third Streets, would remain as is and access to it will not be altered.  Public access to the shoreline bank on the south side of Pier 80, which may be developed as the Muwekma Ohlone Open Space, is proposed to be provided via a pedestrian walkway on the western edge of Pier 80, running parallel to Illinois Street, from Marin Street to Islais Creek.  Specific planting and landscape designs for this embankment have yet to be defined.

 

Concern: Will the proposed bridge have a bicycle lane?  There are no dedicated bicycle lanes proposed in the Bridge design, but bicyclists will be able to share the vehicle lanes as long as a train is not present. The existing Bay Trail uses the Third Street Bridge as the dedicated route, which will remain.

 

Concern: Will the proposed Bridge significantly increase the diesel emissions in the area, particularly in the vicinity of the 1800 Illinois Street Bridge?  The Port agreed with and supported the initiative taken by the Planning Department to incorporate into the SEIR an air quality analysis that far exceeded what is usually included in other EIR’s. The SEIR air quality analysis, therefore, included a separate modeling effort to evaluate the effects of diesel emission on public health in the southeast area of the City and concluded that the increase in diesel emissions associated with potential future development would not exceed the significance threshold for diesel particulates.  Subsequent to completion of the Final SEIR, Port staff directed its environmental consultant, ESA Associates, to conduct additional site-specific diesel emission analysis on occupants of the 1800 Illinois Street building.  That analysis, which is discussed in detail in Attachment D concludes that even given a series of conservative (worst-case) assumptions, diesel emission levels would not be considered significant under current regulatory standards.

 

In the most recent Illinois Street Bridge community meeting held by the Port in December 2001, several members of the public requested that the Port Commission hold a hearing to receive public comments.  Accordingly, the Commission will hold a public hearing for this purpose on February 12, 2002.

 

Concern:  How does the Illinois Bridge project relate with other public projects occurring in the southeast area of the City?  The Port is working closely with MUNI, Department of Public Works, Department of Parking and Traffic regarding the following nearby projects that are approved, and scheduled for construction:  1)MUNI Metro East; 2) Illinois Street repaving between 25th Street and Cesar Chavez; 3) MUNI Third Street Light Rail (including the seismic retrofit of the Levon Hagoop Nishkian Drawbridge on Third Street); Sewage line and shoreline open space repairs currently underway resulting from rupture during construction of MUNI Duct Banks.  With respect to Items 1 and 2, the Port has been working with MUNI to coordinate construction and compatible operation of separate freight rail and light rail trackage and signalization.  In addition, the Port has been working with the Department of Public Works to pave Illinois Street on a schedule consistent with the MUNI Metro East facility, and consistent with Illinois paving, gutter and sidewalk improvements to be performed by the Port for the Illinois Street Bridge.  With respect to Item 3, MUNI and the Port have attempted to coordinate construction scheduling between the Illinois Bridge and Third Street Bridge seismic retrofit.  Upon learning that the Illinois Street Bridge could not be completed in time for MUNI to close the Third Street Bridge for repairs, MUNI adjusted its construction process and has committed to carry out the seismic retrofit without closing the Bridge to daytime traffic.  With respect to Item 4, the MUNI duct bank repairs, MUNI and its contractor are taking the lead in working with the Port, Public Utilities Commission agency and David Erickson to provide compensation for the property damage created by this unfortunate incident.

 

Environmental Impact Analysis

As described above, the Illinois Street Rail/Vehicle Bridge was analyzed in the Southern Waterfront Supplemental EIR (SEIR), certified in February 2001.  The SEIR did not find any significant adverse environmental impacts associated with the Bridge and in fact identified the bridge as a traffic mitigation measure that would relieve congestion otherwise projected for Third Street.  The SEIR identified construction mitigation measures for the proposed Bridge that are typical for construction work in the water along the San Francisco Bay.  Construction may not occur during herring season and “Best Management Practices”, as determined by regulatory agencies (including Regional Water Quality Board, Coast Guard, Fish and Wildlife) are utilized to minimize turbidity of the water and prevent any construction materials debris from entering the Bay.  Landside construction mitigations include “watering” the job site to reduce dust emissions, using filters to minimize erosion, and to monitor construction water run-off.  Traffic signals will be installed at the intersections of Illinois Street and Marin Streets, and Cargo and Amador Streets to mitigate traffic circulation.

 

Project Timeline

The schedule for the Illinois Street Rail/Vehicle Bridge is presented below:

·      September 25, 2001 – Port Commission approves framework for bridge construction.

·      September 2001 –January 2002 – Due diligence and Community Outreach

·      March 2002 -  Deadline for Commission authorization of Catellus $1.8 million project funding contribution

·      March, 2002 – Port Commission authorizes RFP to pre-qualify Design/Build firms to design and construct the Bridge

·      October – November, 2002 -  Select Design Build Firm

·      November, 2002 – March, 2003 – Develop Bridge design and construction drawings

·      January, 2003-August 2003 – Obtain required entitlements including from BCDC, US Coast Guard, and US Army Corp of Engineers.

·      March, 2003 – October, 2003 – off site construction

·      August 2003 – January, 2004 – on site construction

·      February 2004 - Bridge construction completed

           

 

Prepared by:  Diane Oshima, Manager, Waterfront Planning

David Beaupre, Waterfront Planner V

 

 

Attachments- see below

 

A. Illinois Bridge artist rendering

 

B.Map of existing and proposed rail route

C – Summary table comparing alternative Bridge alignments


 

D–Letter regarding diesel emission analysis for 1800 Illinois Street