Friday, March 26, 2010

BART plans largest track outage in more than a decade

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A major construction project using $13 million in federal stimulus funds will allow BART to offer Pittsburg/Bay Point line customers more empty seats and better on-time service. However, to provide these amenities, BART will have to temporarily shut down the trackway between Walnut Creek and Pleasant Hill stations twice.

 

The first closure will start the night of March 26 and end just before the March 29 morning's commute. BART will run a free bus bridge between those stations for riders while construction crews work to complete the $38-million Central Contra Costa County Crossover project.

The second weekend track closure will take place over the Memorial Day weekend starting at 9 p.m. Friday, May 28 through 1:30 a.m. Tuesday, June 1. BART suggests customers allow up to 20 additional minutes for the bus detour.

On March 25, the two BART Board Members representing Pittsburg/Bay Point riders held a news conference at the project construction site to provide details of the bus bridge.

"We're doing everything we can to make the bus bridge as easy to use as possible," Board Member Joel Keller said. "Our goal is to make sure a bus meets every train arriving at the Walnut Creek and Pleasant Hill stations. Still, we realize the track closure will inconvenience some, but we hope our riders understand this is short-term pain for long-term gain."

This weekend's work represents the largest planned track outage at BART in more than a decade. Crews are installing "crossover tracks," which allow trains to cross onto another trackway in order to get around a disabled train ahead of it, or simply to turn around and go the opposite direction.

"We will have more than 100 contractors and BART workers removing and replacing 1,200 feet of rail, 4,000,000 pounds of rail ballast, 250 rail ties and 600 feet of the electric third rail that powers our trains," Board member Gail Murray said. "We began the project in October 2009 and hope to finish it this winter.

By adding two more crossover points, trains won't have to travel as far to get to a point in the track that allows them to cross onto a different set of tracks to bypass a disabled train.

"Pittsburg/Bay Point riders already have one of the longest commutes in the system," Murray said. "Fortunately, we have a 96 percent customer on-time performance, but once in a while, we do have delays, which average 10 to 15 minutes. These additional crossovers will help us cut those delays down to just a couple of minutes."

The two new crossover tracks allow BART the flexibility to provide more seating for riders between Pleasant Hill and Rockridge stations during the commutes without having to expand the fleet.

The $38-million project creates nearly 1,200 direct and indirect jobs. One third of the money, or $13 million dollars, is federal stimulus money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

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