By Tim Hunt
Denied BART extension may speed up rail progressUploaded: Jun 5, 2018
Five BART directors thumbed their collective noses at residents of Livermore last week when they voted not to move forward with the rail extension to Isabel Avenue (Highway 84) in Livermore.
The extension has been on BART maps for decades, but five directors decided that it was more important to improve the core system and consider a second Transbay tube than to act in good faith and extend to Livermore.
The city had bent over backwards to meet BART’s goals by approving plans for dense housing at the transit hub. The plan called for 4,100 units, 1,000 in the affordable category, plus retail and office uses. With the negative vote, the housing plan is eliminated. Four directors representing suburban districts, including the valley’s rep, John McPartland, voted for the extension.
Fortunately, the board did not opt for bus service, instead taking no action. That opens the way for local officials to take over.
Last year, Assemblywoman Catharine Baker (R-Dublin) collaborated with her San Joaquin County counterpart to push through AB 758 to create the San Joaquin County Regional Rail Authority. The authority, with representatives from both counties, is charged with creating a rail link from San Joaquin County to the Livermore Valley.
The BART extension to Livermore has $400 million allocated to it from the county one-cent sales tax. If BART takes no further action, the local officials will work with the country transportation agency to move that money to the rail authority.
The authority, which is staffed by the Livermore Amador Valley Transit Authority Executive Director Michael Tree, already has the outline of the plan up on its website. The long range plan, with a preliminary cost of $1.7 billion, would run from Stockton on or next to Union Pacific tracks through Lathrop, Tracy and Mountain Hosue. At the county line, it would use the former Trans-Continental Railroad right-of-way through the Altamont Pass and then move into the I-580 median around Greenville and then go the BART station. It proposes using either diesel or electrically self-powered transit cars on standard rail tracks for the 20-mile connection through the Altamont Pass. The capital cost was estimated at under $400 million with three stations.
The plan has trains running at 30-minute intervals to meet every other BART train. Travel time would be about 26 minutes.
Once the tracks enter the valley, they likely would need to run down the median of I-580 to the east Dublin-Pleasanton station. That’s the most expensive issue because the freeway will need to be moved to accommodate the tracks in the median.
That said, the advantage moving forward will be local elected people—in both counties—in control of the process. They will drive it because they will be focused, unlike the regional BART board that serves a variety of constituents—often prioritizing taking care of its unionized employees instead of passengers.
For the Livermore Amador Valley Transit Authority, which operates the Wheels bus system, it marks another expansion of its domain. Working in conjunction with Alameda County, the authority will be the agency that builds and operates the new parking garage at the East Dublin-Pleasanton BART station. BART directors refused to take a $20 million state grant that Assemblywoman Baker arranged for that garage, so Supervisor Scott Haggerty and others devised the plan for the county to provide the land and the authority to build and operate the garage.
Here’s hoping for similar creativity in bringing rail from San Joaquin County to connect with BART in Dublin-Pleasanton.