The long-planned BART to Livermore route is about as old in the planning stages as the BART system, itself. Since 1960 when BART was formed, taxpayers, including those in Livermore, have paid millions of dollars in revenue to expand BART service to the East Bay cities of Pittsburg and Pleasanton, even to San Francisco International Airport. But Livermore has long been considered too far, too expensive and with too few riders to make it worthwhile.
That has changed, at least as a planning concept, which is what Wednesday's meeting is all about.
Yet Pleasanton officials say that the decision BART authorities will make with regard to the 2,000-page Livermore Extension Draft Environmental Impact Review, which is the focus of the Wednesday meeting, will be critical to Pleasanton's development in 2010 even though it's unlikely any tracks would be laid within the next 10 to 20 years.
City Manager Nelson Fialho said that Pleasanton has long supported Livermore's plea to extend BART east, but the favored route has always been in the median of Interstate 580 to as far as Greenville Road.
"BART tracks running east from the Pleasanton station to Greenville Road in the center of the freeway, as trains now operate from Castro Valley, makes sense," Fialho said. "It's the cheapest route to build and, because stations would continue to be on the freeway, would attract the biggest increase in riders."
But BART planners, after discussing Livermore's interests, added several other suggested routes as shown in its comprehensive EIR. Four of them show the BART extension tracks rising to 40 feet in height from the Pleasanton station, crossing over I-580 and then heading south and east toward downtown Livermore. At their highest point, the tracks would also cross over the northwest corner of Staples Ranch, a 124-acre parcel now owned by Alameda County where four multi-million-dollar development projects are planned and property that Pleasanton plans to annex.
The projects, in fact, could be in jeopardy if elevated tracks are built over land that is now designated for a 37-acre auto mall planned by the Hendrick Automotive Group and within eyesight of those who would live in the adjacent Stoneridge Creek complex planned by Continuing Life Communities (CLC), with up to 800 units for assisted living, skilled nursing and independent living residents.
Although it would take years and billions of dollars to ever build the BART extension, the agency's EIR tends to favor the Staples Ranch elevated tracks, which Hendrick vehemently opposes. For Pleasanton, the Chicago-New York City style elevated line would add a new view of Pleasanton's eastern gateway for motorists on I-580, a view which city officials have said they oppose as well.
At a meeting with the Pleasanton City Council Dec. 15, District 4 BART Director John McPartland and BART Project Manager Malcolm Quint insisted that no decisions have yet been made on where to route a BART extension to Livermore. Only four of the nine routing alternatives actually take BART over Staples Ranch, although that could be a preferred route since the tracks would follow mostly vacant, public land, traveling south and then southeast into downtown Livermore.
The downtown location is supported by some city leaders, including Livermore Mayor Marshall Kamena and the city's urban redevelopment agency that see rapid transit to the city center a boon to businesses located there as well as to the future multi-million-dollar performing arts center planned for the downtown. Livermore is in the midst of a massive downtown redevelopment and Kamena sees a downtown BART station as essential to that development.
But a downtown Livermore BART station was largely panned by residents who attended the public hearings. A majority favored the original extension plan that would keep BART in the freeway corridor, terminating at Greenville Road. They said that route would be less noisy with vacant land available for commuter parking and that it would attract less crime. Several also said they would not want BART tracks or a station near their homes.
Quint's and McPartland's appearance before the Pleasanton council Dec. 15 was unscheduled and not an official presentation. Nevertheless, it soothed some ruffled feathers among Pleasanton leaders who had been watching from the sidelines as BART pursued its Staples Ranch flyover plan without consulting them or even inviting them to any of the meetings, which BART held only in Livermore. Quint said the meetings from now on would be held alternately in Pleasanton and Livermore. Pleasanton's Deputy City Manager Steven Bocian was named to an advisory board to confer on the EIR.
"Pleasanton has always been very supportive of extending BART to Livermore," said Mayor Jennifer Hosterman. "We look forward to working with you."
The meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. in the City Council Chamber, 200 Old Bernal Ave.