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March 29, 2005 > World Class Facility

World Class Facility

ROMA Design Group has been retained by the city of Union City to design an intermodal station incorporating the existing BART station near Decoto Road with several other modes of transportation. TCV spoke with Boris Dramov, president of ROMA Design Group about the design.

TCV: How far along are the design plans for the intermodal station?

Dramov: We have spent quite a bit of time developing a preliminary design for all "Phase 1" components. These components are funded and have been developed to a much greater level of detail. Time has also been spent developing a master plan representing the ultimate vision.

TCV: What are the "Phase 1" components?

Dramov: These include all upgrades and modifications of the BART property to enhance accessibility, provide for an increased number of buses and create better facilities to transfer patrons between bus, BART and commuter rail. Circulation improvements such as an additional Decoto Road connection and pedestrian access are included.

The other thing that will be included is a pedestrian crossing under the BART rail and through the Union Pacific Railroad (UPRR) right-of-way. This will allow people on the PG&E side of the property to access BART directly. There will also be improvements on the east side of the property such as a park, community services building, a drop-off area and station area to allow future connections.

TCV: How many levels are proposed for the intermodal station?

Dramov: There are two basic grades: the station grade at approximately the level of the BART concourse and the platform level which will be at approximately the same level as the existing BART platform level. Currently BART is raised above Decoto Road and ultimately the rail lines on the UPRR right-of-way will also be raised to approximately the same elevation, high enough to allow a minimum 12-foot clearance of the concourse. The UPRR lines will, however, continue to cross Decoto Road at a grade - they will not be separated from Decoto Road.

TCV: What is planned beyond Phase 1?

Dramov: The Phase 1 improvements on the BART property and PG&E property establish the basic elements of the intermodal terminal. Beyond that, the preparation of a master plan provides flexibility for expanding service to Union City. The first consideration was to provide two rail lines for the Capital Corridor, Dumbarton Rail and the possibility of ACE (Altamont Commuter Express) coming to Union City. At some point, there may be a need for two additional tracks. One of those tracks, a "bypass track" may be needed when Dumbarton Rail Service is in place. That depends on where the maintenance facility for the Dumbarton Rail Service will be located.

Enough bridge structure is being built in the first phase to permit a third track and an additional platform. We have designed the station so that a fourth rail line could be added with an additional central platform servicing both the third and fourth rail lines. An alternative is to provide two additional rails for BART service that could be used for express service.

If high speed rail goes through the Altamont Pass, it is likely to come to Union City. We wanted to make sure that the master plan allowed for those considerations. That would be a below grade - below the existing concourse level - connection.

The master plan envisions that we would build a roof over a significant portion of the station area to create the image and identity of a true intermodal system shared by a wide variety of service providers.

TCV: What is the image or theme of the station?

Dramov: We have a situation in Union City that is unique. We have the opportunity to build transit-oriented development directly adjacent to the station, both on the PG&E property and the BART side. This will be an integrated intermodal station. We will try to get away from the stand-alone facility surrounded by a sea of parking.

In the long term, this is a station that will be well integrated into the heart of the community. This is unique since within a half mile or a bit larger radius, there is a significant amount of vacant and underutilized land that is ready for redevelopment or is being redeveloped now. This station is integral to the city in the tradition of the great stations whether Victoria Station in London or the Gard du Nord of Paris.

Currently the facility emphasizes one mode of transportation, BART. There is a small structure which is handsomely done and works well, providing access from the concourse to the platforms. It is not of the scale and stature of a facility providing intermodal transfer capability. The bus area needs to have more presence and a stronger relationship with the existing facility. When the additional rail lines are added, this adds another challenge. The question is: How can we enhance visibility and identity of the station so that it is of a scale and reflects the functional characteristics of an intermodal station rather than a one-system facility?

Even in the beginning phase, we wanted to build a bus canopy equal to the length of the BART platform on the side where the Alameda County buses are going to be. This would upgrade the identity and scale to reflect that the facility is a combination of many transportation modes. We look for elements that speak to the interconnection between rail, BART, bus, pedestrian and bicycle movement that comes together here.

The architecture of the station needs to create a quality environment that makes transit a desirable and convenient mode of travel, making this system a mode of choice rather than a system of last resort. Physical elements should speak to the activities of the station. They should be streamlined, modern and reflect movement.

TCV: Are plans ready for construction?

Dramov: The plans are, to a great degree, drawn for Phase 1 but they are not construction documents. We are at the preliminary design stage - defining the shape, character, extent and dimension of elements. Final design means you are ready to go out for bids.

At this point, we are finalizing all the elements of the preliminary design. We have had to increase the scope of some of the work in order to build in a greater level of cost-effectiveness - building a bigger increment in the beginning in order to save money by not building and then removing to make way for new services.

We have developed many of the costs associated with the elements and are trying to match these with funding sources. There are many people working on this, ROMA, the city of Union City and many others. A significant amount of the funding for Phase 1 is in place, but as we increase the scope of Phase 1, there may be a need for additional funds. This is an exploration we are going through before moving to final design.

TCV: Is design subject to approval by all service providers?

Dramov: Absolutely. Each has its own criteria. It makes it complex, but it is the only way to achieve an intermodal facility that is operated by many service providers.

TCV: Have you ever designed anything like this before?

Dramov: Yes, but probably not with the number of service providers of this one. Union City is unique. One of the reasons we hired a sub-consultant who has designed many of the giant intermodal facilities in Europe, particularly in France, is because of their extensive experience in these situations.

TCV: Will this station have a European flair?

Dramov: In the sense that they [Europe] have achieved a cutting edge level of transit accessibility and intermodal facility development. We certainly can learn from that. Those types of facilities are now being built all over the world. If you look at China - Hong Kong, Shanghai - you will find similar facility development. I would say this is an international style.

I have been working in the Bay Area for a long time and if we can achieve everything that this city has set out - they are to be commended because they so enthusiastically embraced and pursued the development of the intermodal station - this will be a national showpiece; by far the most interesting intermodal facility in the country.

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