Livermore deadline looms for bart’s long-delayed $1.6 billion extension electricity questions and answers pdf

Every weekday, interstates 580 and 680 through the East Bay and into the South Bay turn into seas of red brake lights as some 83,000 commuters cross the Altamont Pass from San Joaquin County into the Bay Area. For more than a decade, residents and elected officials on both sides of the county line have dreamed of an alternative: a rail line linking the Central Valley, where land is plentiful and rents are cheap, to BART and the jobs-hungry economic engines of San Francisco and Silicon Valley.

The directors have five options to choose from — including doing nothing at all — but have honed in on just two. One faction of the board is advocating for a 5.5-mile extension of the conventional BART system to Isabel Avenue in Livermore along the existing Dublin/Pleasanton line. But at an estimated cost of $1.6 billion that’s already more than $1 billion short, other directors say BART should instead build a much less costly light-rail-like bus system that would provide more immediate relief to commuters.

But, even if BART does build a full extension to Isabel Avenue, early projections show it would do little to stem the tide of cars streaming in from the Central Valley, because, opponents say, it stops a tantalizing four miles short of the Altamont Corridor Express, a commuter train that runs from Stockton to San Jose with a station in downtown Livermore.

Assemblymembers Catharine Baker, R-San Ramon, and Susan Eggman, D-Stockton, authored legislation last year creating the Tri-Valley-San Joaquin Valley Regional Rail Authority with the goal of creating a connection between ACE and BART. Whatever BART decides will influence the new rail authority’s path forward, but if BART’s board does nothing, the authority will become the recipient of $140 million that’s already dedicated to the extension.

A preliminary project concept for the proposed commuter train from Tracy to Livermore with the initial segment likely stopping at Mountain House. Ultimately, proponents would like to extend the train from Mountain House to Stockton, as well.

The authority could use that money for a new, 20-mile commuter train that would carry passengers from Tracy to either a future BART station in Livermore or the existing Dublin/Pleasanton station. That project is expected to cost roughly $1.4 billion.

For Modesto resident Ron Hollis, the question is: What’s better for the region? Hollis lived in Livermore until three years ago, when, like many Bay Area residents, he and his family were priced out, he said. For $250,000, he could buy a four-bedroom home with a pool. The trade-off, as he put it, was getting a second part-time job: his commute.

To get it all done, Hollis wakes up around 3 a.m. to make the two- to three-hour commute into the Bay Area. As a construction worker, he often has to drive to sites. But he takes BART when he can, usually parking at the Dublin/Pleasanton station.

Hollis’ future commute hinges on BART’s decision on Thursday, which will also influence how the new authority proceeds. BART’s five options for its proposed station along the I-580 median at Isabel Avenue include: whether to undertake the $1.6 billion extension of its existing system with conventional BART trains; build a nearly-as-costly diesel multiple unit or electric multiple unit system, similar to the new Antioch extension opening later this week; construct a bus rapid transit system, which is sort of like a light rail train on wheels; fund a traditional express bus; or do nothing. BART’s staff has made no recommendation on a preferred alternative.

If the board chooses the conventional BART alternative, that puts extra pressure on the agency to drum up money for the roughly $1.1 billion shortfall, said BART Director Rebecca Saltzman. At the same time, BART is in the midst of a $3.5 billion effort to increase the frequency and capacity of its existing trains. But, it’s about $2.5 billion short, said Andrew Tang, a transportation planner for BART.

BART does have money on hand to build the bus rapid transit system, which is estimated to cost $380 million, thanks to a half-cent sales tax Alameda County voters approved in 2014. The light-rail-like buses would use toll lanes on I-580 to ensure they never reach speeds of less than 55 or 50 miles per hour, said Joel Ramos, regional planning director for TransForm, a transportation advocacy nonprofit. And it could get built right away, he said.

“You can’t add a room to your house if your foundation is cracked and that’s essentially what BART is trying to do,” Ramos said. “If you want relief now, we need to go with the bus rapid transit.” Passengers board a train at the Dublin/Pleasanton BART station on Thursday, May 17, 2018, in Pleasanton, Calif. (Aric Crabb/Bay Area News Group)

Proponents of the conventional BART option, including Assemblywoman Baker, have argued it would get the most cars off the road — close to 14,000 with traditional BART trains or around 3,500 with the bus rapid transit system — netting BART the most riders and eliminating the most greenhouse gases.

But Saltzman pointed to data from the city of Livermore projecting that 86 percent of residents in a development planned for the area around the Isabel Avenue station would still drive to work. If BART chooses the bus rapid transit system, however, that development would disappear since its approval is contingent on BART building out a conventional extension.

BART’s board will meet Thursday, May 24, at 4 p.m. in the BART board room, located at 2040 Webster St., in Oakland. Please note the board will first meet in closed session and reconvene in open session at 5 p.m., or immediately following the closed session, whichever is first.