Officials break ground on first US high-speed rail station

Plans to bring high-speed rail to the United States have passed a significant milestone with a ceremony marking the start of work on the first new station on the system.

Federal, State and local officials joined the Transbay Joint Powers Authority (TJPA) and other guests on 13 August to officially break ground on the Transbay Transit Centre –the northern terminus for the California High Speed Rail system and a multi-modal facility that will accommodate eleven transit operators and serve more than 45 million passengers a year.

The project, described as a new 'Grand Central Station of the West', is estimated to create more than 48,000 jobs directly and indirectly in its first phase of construction, which will last seven years.

Speaking at the event, US Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood said: "This is one of the most important and transformational public transportation projects in America. Once the dust has settled, San Francisco's skyline will be transformed – as will transportation, housing, and employment choices for people across the Bay area and beyond."

The full Phase 1 (Transit Centre) and Phase 2 (Downtown Rail Extension) project and build out of the Redevelopment Plan will also increase the gross regional product in the Bay Area by $80 billion.

For more than 40 years, San Francisco has been planning for the replacement of the outdated and seismically deficient Transbay Terminal at First and Mission streets. The new Transbay Transit Centre will be a landmark in the city and will feature a 5.4-acre (2.2-hectare) public park on its roof.

The five-story Transit Centre includes: one above-grade bus level, a ground floor entrance on Mission Street, concourse level, and two below-grade rail levels serving Caltrain and future California High-Speed Rail.

"We are very proud of what our facility will do for San Francisco, and we are equally proud of the fact that we will become the first new station on the High-Speed Rail system to move into construction," said Nathaniel P Ford, Sr, chairman of the TJPA Board. "This is a moment in history to be remembered."

The $4.2 billion Transbay Transit Centre Project is funded by various partners including the Federal Government, the State of California, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, the San Francisco County and San Mateo County Transportation Authorities and AC Transit, among others. The first phase of the programme is fully funded.

The Transbay Transit Centre is scheduled to open in August 2017.

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