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December 17, 2010 > Milestone for intermodal station

Milestone for intermodal station

By Simon Wong
Image courtesy of City of Union City
Photo by Simon Wong

The City of Union City and project partners celebrated completion of Phase 1 of the Union City Intermodal Station Project. Phase 1 improves access to BART on the west side of the station, and is a step in the creation of a regional transit hub surrounded by transit-oriented development (TOD) with 3,965 housing units, up to 6,936 jobs and office, retail, technology lab, and high tech manufacturing space within a half-mile radius (10-minute walk) around the station.

The Greater Station District consists of approximately 175 acres bounded by Decoto Road, Alvarado-Niles Road, Seventh Street, and the boundary with the City of Fremont. Core of the Station District is 60 acres, zoned for mixed use, around Union City BART to which 30.4 acres will have direct access.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony on December 2 was attended by guests, past and present city staff, past planning commissioners, elected officials from Union City, state and national government, and most of the project's funding partners.

Regionally, there is a need to mitigate the effects of anticipated population growth by combining high-density construction with TODs to encourage fewer and shorter road journeys and reduce carbon emissions.

The Association of Bay Area Governments has partnered through its FOCUS Program with the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) to establish Priority Development Areas (PDA) and Priority Conservation Areas (PCA) to satisfy statutory requirements - Senate Bill (SB) 375 requires city planning agencies to integrate land use and transportation to reduce Vehicle Miles Travelled. In doing so, SB 375 links land use with state-wide reductions of greenhouse gases contained in Assembly Bill (AB) 32. The Intermodal Station District has PDA-designation and the hills to the east of Union City are a PCA.

Planning for the Intermodal Station began in 2000/2001 and the resultant Station District Plan was incorporated into Union City's General Plan in 2002 and into the Redevelopment Plan.

The vision statement urges "the creation of a mixed-use district with an emphasis on a town center/central business district with residential, commercial, office and research and development uses serving as an important regional employment center. This District will be designed to provide strong pedestrian connection, ground floor retail, open space, high density office, research and development, light industrial and high density residential uses."

This recognizes an opportunity for a regional, intermodal, transit hub - BART, AC Transit, Union City Transit, Dumbarton Rail (across the Bay to Menlo Park, Redwood City and connections to San Francisco and San Jose), Capitol Corridor (Sacramento to San Jose) and Altamont Commuter Express (ACE Rail, Stockton to San Jose) that runs close to Union City. The project will connect passenger rail with BART in Southern Alameda County.

What was previously under-utilized land with abandoned commercial properties has been transformed since 2003. Private developer Avalon Bay Communities recently completed 438 apartments next to BART at a density of 75 dwelling units per acre; demand for the units is attributable to their proximity to transit. Eleventh Street is in place and accesses the Station District from the north. 119 single family homes and 216 town homes by KB HOME are complete. Parking has been reconfigured and lays the foundation for future development by BART should the need arise.

Barry Swenson Builder plans to start construction in June 2013 of 973 residential units and 37,500 sq. ft. of retail space for what are designated as Blocks 2 and 3. On Block 4, Mid-Peninsula Housing Coalition is constructing 157 affordable apartments and 8,500 sq. ft. of retail space, with occupancy starting in late 2011 and a second release in late 2012; State Treasurer Bill Lockyer and the Tax Allocation Credit Committee helped fund Block 4 development.

Site improvements were completed at the end of 2008 before the two-phase reconstruction of the station could begin. Completion of Phase 1 - opening the station on the west side, shared parking, better bus facilities around the station and enhanced pedestrian and bicycle circulation - has improved accessibility.

A California Department of Housing and Community Development grant enables Union City to start Phase 2, upgrading the east side, or rear, of the BART station. A pedestrian pass-through will connect the station's east and west entrances at ground level. Relocation of two elevators, to make room for the paseo, will go out to bid in June 2011 and work is expected to last 18 months.

Phase 2 awaits the release of $152M from the MTC to purchase the Union Pacific Railroad's (UPRR) Oakland Sub-Division track, immediately behind the station. It will be raised to the same level as the BART trains to enable passengers to transfer easily between rail and BART and to accommodate the pass-through beneath to allow residents and workers to walk to shops instead of driving around the edge of the Station District.

Currently, Capital Corridor bypasses Union City along the UPRR Niles Sub-Division, shared with freight trains. Transferring passenger trains to the Oakland Sub-Division would serve Union City and improve passenger rail performance given that freight services, which often take priority over passenger services, run along this line about once a week. Track improvements will be part of either a Capitol Corridor or Dumbarton Rail project, funded by Regional Measure 2 (2004).

A two-acre, landscaped "East Plaza" is in the Final Design phase; a construction contract will be awarded in early 2011. The plaza, which will contain public art, terraced seating, a fountain, and a community facility, will be funded by grants from MTC's Transportation for Livable Communities Program, Proposition 1C Transit-Oriented Development monies, and RDA.

The East-West Connector (formerly Highway 84), with access to Mission Boulevard and I-880, will cross the southern part of the Station District and require BART and UPRR grade separations. Eleventh Street will join with the East-West Connector, expected to open in 2014, to enable access to the Station District from the south.

At build out, the Intermodal station will have 1,925 residential units and up to 2,574 jobs, 100,000 sq. ft. of retail space, 1.1 million sq. ft. of laboratory and office space, 12,400 sq. ft. of business condominiums, 10,000 sq. ft. of restaurant space, and transit access throughout the Bay Area within a quarter-mile radius (five-minute walk).

The City is also working closely with Oakland, San Leandro, Hayward, Alameda County and BART on the East Bay Greenway. This entails the acquisition of the UPRR Oakland Sub-Division from Oakland to Fremont. Doing so will preserve the rail right-of-way in the East Bay for future expansion of passenger services, high speed rail, and a bike-and-pedestrian path.

"Redevelopment is very important because it alleviates blight and stimulates economic development. Direction of such monies to the Station District enabled us to accomplish the hard work - to acquire land, clean it, build infrastructure and preserve the right-of-way for the East-West Connector. The RDA has also actively funded planning and design studies, such as examining the rail connection between Hayward and Fremont and how Union City BART can accommodate passenger rail. A grade separation is also required at Decoto Road. We've invested approximately $60M to build the Station District but this leveraged another $82.5M of federal, state and county [ACTIA Measure B half-cent transportation sales tax] funds," explained Union City RDA Manager Mark Evanoff.

"As for the proposed pedestrian promenade, business condos and retail pavilion, we lost funding when the state Legislature appropriated $9.2M of RDA monies. Senator Ellen Corbett voted NO, understanding the importance of RDA funds remaining local. Union City is a co-plaintiff with the California Redevelopment Association which is appealing against the state's take-away. Proposition 22, which voters approved on November 2, will stop the state from appropriating RDA funds," added Evanoff.

"This milestone for the Intermodal Station project reflects the efforts of, and successful partnerships with, the staff of local and regional agencies, state and federal governments and consultants/contractors. We're extremely grateful. The development is a showcase for sustainability, TOD and PDA in the Bay Area," concluded Mayor Mark Green.

For more information, visit,, and

Union City Intermodal Station Funding Partners
Union City Redevelopment Agency
AC Transit
Alameda County Transportation Commission
Alameda County Congestion Management Agency
Alameda County Transportation Improvement Authority
Metropolitan Transportation Commission
California Pollution Control Financing Authority
California Department of Housing and Community Development
State Treasurer's Office
Federal Transit Administration
Federal Highway Administration
U.S. Department of Commerce
U.S. Economic Development Administration
U.S. Department of Transportation

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