A BART train heads toward the Transbay Tube from West Oakland Station. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

A BART train heads toward the Transbay Tube from West Oakland Station. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

BART receives $1.2 billion grant for Transbay Corridor Core Capacity Project

Largest grant in agency’s history provides ‘critical funding boost’

The Federal Transportation Administration has awarded Bay Area Rapid Transit $1.2 billion to help fund the Transbay Corridor Core Capacity Project — the largest grant ever received by the transit agency in its nearly 50-year history.

“This is a huge day for BART and anyone who needs to get across the Bay during commute hours,” BART General Manager Bart Powers said in a statement.

Four major capital elements comprise the Transbay Corridor Core Capacity Project, intended to reduce crowding and improve service across the Bay in response to swells of commuters: 252 additional railcars; trail control modernization; a new railcar storage yard at Hayward Maintenance Complex; and five new power substations to upgrade the electrical system.

Together, these improvements are expected to increase train frequencies between San Francisco and Oakland, the busiest section of the entire system, by more than 30% and boost overall capacity by more than 36%, according to BART.

They’ll also cost an estimated $3.5 billion total.

In addition to the FTA grant, the project will be financed by a number of local, state and regional sources, $1.8 billion of which have already been committed.

FTA funds, just released after a 30-day congressional review period, are restricted to use for the Transbay Corridor. They provide no relief to the agency’s $51 million current fiscal year operating budget deficit caused by plummeting pandemic ridership and sales tax receipts.

“Moving the project forward doesn’t eliminate BART’s urgent need for emergency funding to continue running trains and fill budget shortfalls brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic,” BART said in a press release.

Before shelter-in-place orders were issued in March, BART was running 23 trains in each direction through the Transbay Tube during peak commuter windows. Upon completion of the Core Capacity Project, it will be able to operate 30 hourly trains each way.

As recently as January, BART estimated the number of riders who travel transbay per hour during peak commute times would jump to 30,000 by 2030.

The agency holds steadfast to its belief that this scale of ridership will return after the coronavirus crisis has passed.

“Once the region’s economy recovers after the COVID-19 pandemic, demand for transbay travel is expected to rise dramatically,” the same press release said.

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