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August 26, 2009 > Bay Rail - a viable dream

Bay Rail - a viable dream

Submitted By Robert S. Allen, BART Director (retd.), 1974-88

The San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District was created in 1957. In 1962, voters approved a $792M bond issue which was redeemed in full a decade ago.

It's time to do the same for the five BART and Caltrain counties (Santa Clara, Alameda, Contra Costa, San Francisco and San Mateo) to create a five-county rail transit district serving the six million residents of these counties and their neighbors. The 1962 bond issue, adjusted for inflation and population, would raise about $16 billion today.

That should easily pay for BART around the Bay, to San Jose and the Golden Gate Bridge, and in widened freeway medians to Livermore, Brentwood and Crockett. Working with California High Speed Rail, which requires total grade separation, it could replace Caltrain with a joint five-track peninsula train-way (2 BART, 2 HSR, 1UP) south from Millbrae and three tracks north.

BART operates frequent, roll-aboard trains that accommodate 520 seated passengers, and many more standing riders, with one train operator. Fare collection is automatic. BART is about 95 percent punctual. In its 37 years, smog-free BART has run nearly 30 billion fatality-free passenger miles. Replacing local Caltrain with BART would greatly reduce the cost and complexity of the planned San Francisco High Speed Rail terminal.

Bay Rail should link San Jose, Santa Clara (San Jose Airport), Coliseum (Oakland Airport) and Oakland via Mulford - miles shorter than the existing roundabout Capitol Corridor route and with far less curvature and fewer grade crossings. It should grade-separate the Mulford line for both freight and bullet trains. There might also be enough money for another trans-Bay tube, either BART or HSR, linking SFO and OAK airports.

BART double-track, ballasted track-way at grade in a freeway, today, should cost about $13M per mile, including barrier fencing, traction power and train control. In the joint HSR/BART (Caltrain) corridor, it should cost somewhat less. Widening freeway medians (I-580, SR-4 and I-880) to allow BART at grade in their medians to the Altamont, Brentwood and Crockett should be a high Caltrans (California Department of Transportation) priority. The Bay Rail bond could cover much of the cost.

BART over the Altamont should cost far less and serve many more people far better than a costly Altamont rail tunnel as is being considered. Currently, BART runs four trains per hour each way, as against four per day on ACE. It should go to Mountain House, Tracy and the planned HSR valley spine line at Lathrop/Manteca.

Legislation to create a Bay Rail district is the first step to decongesting the Bay Area. Let the voters decide, as they did with the Golden Gate Bridge and BART.

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