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Crunican to FTA: Stop stalling

Written by William C. Vantuono, Editor-in-Chief
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BART General Manager Grace Crunican, who is retiring in July. San Francisco Examiner photo.

As she nears retirement, Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) General Manager Grace Crunican is renewing a call for action to the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) to fund its share of the agency’s $3.5 billion Transbay Corridor Core Capacity Program, described as “a package of strategic investments that would boost train frequency between San Francisco and Oakland by more than 30% and overall capacity by 45%.”

The Transbay Corridor Core Capacity Project306 new railcars, a CBTC (communications-based train control) system to enable closer headways, a new railcar storage yard at the Hayward Maintenance Complex, and five additional traction power substations—is required to address capacity problems. The agency has lined up $2.3 billion in secured or planned local funding but is in need of $1.25 billion more through an FTA capital grant currently stalled in the FTA Capital Investment Grants Program review process.

After the project’s completion, BART would be able to operate up to 60 ten-car trains per hour (30 in each direction) through the existing Transbay Tube. Current Transbay Tube throughput is 46 trains per hour.

BART is ready to move the Transbay Corridor Core Capacity Project into the Engineering phase, and Crunican said the agency cannot proceed without FTA funding. She said the project has been delayed by FTA for more than a year, and every year of delay will cost taxpayers an estimated $120 million. BART had been anticipating FTA approval for entry into the Engineering phase by late 2018.

Crunican—who in April announced that she will be retiring in July after eight years at the helm—explained that BART is seeking long-term relief for commuters, which the transit system would be capable of accomplishing by securing federal funding. “We can’t wait any longer; our system is already at capacity,” she said. “BART has secured local and state funding for the project “BART District voters approved money for core capacity when they passed Measure RR. BART riders are contributing money to the project through their fares. Now it’s up to the federal government to do its part and take action.”

California U.S. Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris, both Democrats, as well as seven U.S. Representatives from the Bay Area, recently wrote to U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao in support of the project. They asked the FTA to move the project forward: “It is our understanding that BART’s Transbay Corridor Core Capacity Project has satisfied all the requirements laid out in statute for advancement and has even received the highest possible technical rating—the only project in the program’s pipeline to do so.”

Crunican’s May 29 call for action came the same day that BART carried more than 10,000 additional riders between Oakland and San Francisco due to a fatal automobile accident that temporarily closed the Oakland Bay Bridge. “The commute that the Bay Area experienced this morning shows how one accident can impact tens of thousands of people,” she said. “It’s also a reminder of the vital role BART plays in getting people across the Bay.”

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