Facebook considered reviving defunct rail line to Silicon Valley

  • Facebook spent $20 million on plans to revive a rail line that would run near its office.
  • Meta’s Juan Salazar told The New York Times that they wanted to reduce the overload caused by the employees.
  • Political pressure and impatience put pressure on plans that were abandoned after the pandemic.

Facebook spent $20 million on plans to revive an old rail line to Silicon Valley, but political obstacles and COVID-19 led it to abandon the idea, a report said.

The New York Times reported that the company was trying to renovate the Dumbarton Rail Bridge to streamline traffic to its headquarters while expanding its real estate portfolio.

The Times reported that Warren Slocum, president of the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors, wanted to restore the Dumbarton Rail Corridor, an 18-mile stretch that passes Meta’s Menlo Park headquarters.

To do so, the bridge that has been dormant for four decades will need an expensive renovation. Slocum told the Times that he approached tech companies including Facebook in 2017 to discuss securing funding.

Facebook came to benefit from the idea. The number of employees increased almost tenfold between 2011 and 2017 to 25,000 employees when it expanded and acquired Instagram and Whatsapp.

But this growth helped cause significant traffic congestion around Silicon Valley, according to a feasibility study.

Meta’s director of local policy and community engagement, Juan Salazar, told the Times, “It was something that would not only help us as a company in terms of bringing our employees in, but also help the region.”

Facebook spent $20 million over the next three years on the project, per Salazar, which included hiring employees with experience in rail projects and contracting consultants to look at things, including pods to transport commuters across the corridor. Parts of the railroad were expected to be operational by 2028, according to the Times report.

However, several factors conspired to see the $2.6 billion project shelved. More than a dozen people told the Times that political dysfunction in the region, and Facebook’s own growing impatience, put early pressure on the plans.

The end came when the pandemic hit and ushered in a new era of telecommuting, inadvertently solving much of Silicon Valley’s traffic problem.

“I was devastated,” Slocum said of the project’s collapse. “I understood some of the business reasons, but heartbreaking nonetheless.”

Meta has been trying to reduce office space in recent months and laid off 11,000 employees in November as its VR venture continues to blow cash.

The company did not immediately respond to a request for further comment from Insider.

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