Northern California: Link21 Megaproject Unveiled

Written by Bill Wilson, Engineering Editor; and Editor-in-Chief, Railway Track & Structures
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The San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART) and Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority (CCJPA) have embarked on Link21, described as “a transformational improvement program” that will connect BART with the region’s intercity, commuter and high-speed passenger rail systems while also “connecting people sustainably to employment opportunities and affordable housing throughout the 21-county Northern California Megaregion.”

The northern California Megaregion is a 21-county area covering the Sacramento, San Francisco Bay, Northern San Joaquin Valley and the Monterey Bay areas.

Link21, formerly known as the New Transbay Rail Crossing, is a program of various projects that “will provide more services, faster connections and better access to jobs for the Megaregion’s travelers.”  

One major project within the Link21 Program is a new transbay rail crossing between Oakland and San Francisco. The new crossing “will increase capacity for the overcrowded corridor and will bring new passenger rail connections and services to the Megaregion, including potential for a direct, one-seat ride between Sacramento and San Francisco.” It is included in the regional Plan Bay Area 2050 Final Blueprint as “a key strategy for building a next-generation transit system.”

“As we continue to offer vital services to our passengers during these challenging times, we are also looking ahead to the future” BART General Manager Bob Powers said. “Link21 will connect passengers to the places they want to go throughout the Megaregion.”

In addition to a new website, a new report (download below) prepared by the Bay Area Council Economic Institute (BACEI) was released Jan. 27. The Megaregional Case for a New Transbay Rail Crossing highlights the benefits of a new transbay rail crossing to the entire Megaregion. It builds on two previous reports by the Bay Area Council Economic Institute: The Case for a Second Transbay Transit Crossing and The Northern California Megaregion: Innovative, Connected, and Growing, both completed in 2016. 

When completed, Link21, according to BART and the CCJPA will:

  • Enable fast, frequent, reliable, safe, and accessible rail service.
  • Increase connections between affordable housing and high-quality jobs.
  • Improve air quality by creating viable alternatives to driving.
  • Enhance northern California’s livability, economic competitiveness, and environment.
  • Meet the future travel demands of northern California’s growing, diverse population.

“Link21 will help shape northern California’s rail system for future generations,” said Rob Padgette, Managing Director of the Capitol Corridor. “For example, our most popular travel itinerary is between Sacramento and San Francisco, but that trip currently requires a transfer to either BART at the Richmond Station or to one of our connecting buses at the Emeryville Station. By providing a direct rail connection across the Bay that avoids the need for a transfer and traffic on I-80, this program will dramatically improve how our riders get to and from the San Francisco Bay Area.”

Link21 is backed by voters who approved BART’s Measure RR bond and Metropolitan Transportation Commission’s Regional Measure 3. These funds and others will help support the development of the new transbay crossing. The Link21 Program will host a series of public meetings in 2021 to inform the public and gather feedback about possible program alternatives.

Railway Age Editor-in-Chief William C. Vantuono contributed to this story.

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