Feds Deliver Major Grant to Help BART Increase Rush-Hour Capacity

A Dublin/Pleasanton-bound BART train approaches West Oakland Station after emerging from the Transbay Tube.  (Dan Brekke/KQED)

BART has secured the first piece of a hoped-for $1.2 billion federal grant it says is crucial to a project that aims to dramatically increase the transit system's rush-hour capacity.

BART and federal transportation officials, along with Sen. Dianne Feinstein, announced Thursday the release of the first $300 million of the grant.

The Federal Transit Administration's approval of the funding gives BART the green light to proceed with engineering work on its Transbay Corridor Core Capacity Project.

The $3.5 billion project involves procuring more than 300 additional rail cars, modernizing the agency's train control system, installing improved electrical infrastructure and building a new rail yard in Hayward.

BART says federal authorities informed the transit agency in December 2017 that it had met all the requirements to enter engineering -- in effect, begin work on the project -- and that it expected the first funds to be allocated in February 2018. But despite the feds' positive review of the project, no money was forthcoming.

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BART began a campaign last month to bring the funding delay to public attention, and on Tuesday it had scheduled a Twitter town hall to discuss the transbay capacity project with customers.

Feinstein's office and the FTA announced the release of the $300 million just as that session got underway.

The core capacity project's central promise is a major boost in the potential number of riders BART will be able to move through the Transbay Tube during rush hours.

The agency says its peak capacity now is 23 trains per hour in each direction -- a total of 213 cars traveling through the tube each way, with both eastbound and westbound capacity at 27,000 passengers an hour.

BART says its revamped system -- featuring a total of 1,081 cars and a state-of-the-art train control system to replace its early-'70s technology -- would allow 30 10-car trains to speed under the bay in each direction every hour. With 300 cars moving through the tube each way, both eastbound and westbound capacity would increase 45 percent, to 39,150 passengers an hour.

The transit agency says it has identified $2.25 billion in "secured or planned" funding from a variety of sources, including funds from the 2016 Measure RR bond measure, Regional Measure 3 bridge toll revenue and a variety of other state and local sources.

In its funding announcement Thursday, the Federal Transit Administration said BART must still go through "additional steps" in the grant process to receive the remaining $900 million the FTA has committed to complete the core capacity project.

BART has estimated the project will be finished by 2027.

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