San Francisco’s $4.2B Transbay Project Gets Head Start on High-Speed Rail

The project is the first new station on the proposed national high-speed rail network.

Ground has just broken on the initial phase of San Francisco’s 1 million-square-foot Transbay Transit Center, the first new station on the proposed national high-speed rail network to get under way. The landmark multi-modal transportation hub, dubbed the Grand Central Station of the West, carries a total development price tag of $4.2 billion.

Designed by the renowned Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects architectural firm, Transbay will sprout downtown at the intersection of First and Mission streets in place of what had been a 71-year-old terminal. The project’s first phase encompasses the five-story, $1.6 billion transit center. The Transbay Joint Powers Authority (TJPA), the project’s sponsor, is drawing on a variety of funding sources. In February, the project won  awarded $400 million in federal stimulus funds, courtesy of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which allotted $35 billion for highway and public transportation infrastructure projects.

Not only will Transbay provide access to 11 public transit systems–two below-grade levels of rail lines and an above-grade level for bus transportation–it will also serve as a social gathering place for neighborhood residents and visitors. The Grand Hall will be the main public space, enhanced by street-level retail shops, cafés and public promenades. Additionally, a 5.4-acre rooftop urban park will offer an outdoor amphitheater and restaurants.

San Francisco has long been a leader in sustainability, and Transbay, which will be built to LEED Gold standards, is intended to serve as a state-of-the-art green project. Among its environmentally friendly elements is an underground geothermal heat exchange system. Spanning four and a half blocks beneath the facility, it promises to be one of the largest installations of its kind in the world. Additionally, natural light will be a signature feature of the Grand Hall, which will feature a 120-foot-tall light column capped by a 4,000-square-foot domed skylight.

Development of phase one is on track for completion in seven years and will generate an estimated 48,000 construction jobs. Phase two will produce the 1.3-mile downtown rail extension. Construction will get underway in 2012 and wrap up 2018.