BART runs its trains through the transbay tunnel on a wish and a prayer.
A critical section of aerial track near the eastern end of the tube in Oakland is in disrepair. This “crossover” track allows trains to be diverted around stalled trains, a major component of keeping the system running on time.
However, the crossover is out of commission, said Paul Oversier, BART’s assistant general manager of operations, at a press conference Tuesday.
“Without this crossover, it’s essentially like our tracks are two one-way streets between Oakland and San Francisco with no way to direct trains around a problem,” he said.
The crossover tracks, Oversier said, “need to be completely rebuilt.”
That’s why BART is planning to close down its transbay service not once but twice in coming months.
BART’s repair work, and subsequent service disruption, is planned for Aug. 1 and 2, from end of service Friday through the end of Sunday. BART will conduct a second round of repairs and closures from Sept. 5 to 7, from end of service Friday through the end of Monday, which is also Labor Day.
BART will not run trains between the West Oakland and Embarcadero stations those weekends, leaving an estimated 98,000 Saturday riders and 80,000 Sunday riders in need of alternative transit. Trains will run on either side of San Francisco Bay.
At the news conference Tuesday, Oversier and a trio of BART track maintenance workers pulled back the curtain on the $2 million repair work.
In the video below, a BART track worker explains how they’ll replace track during those two weekends.
The crossover track and interlocking section are about a half-mile long, containing four switches allowing trains to be routed from one track to another. More than 90 workers will replace 932 wooden ties, as well as switches, and 2,400 feet of track.
The wooden ties are the horizontal supports under BART’s metal railway, the iconic slats that signify a train track.
Importantly, track ties all across the system are seriously aged, Oversier said.
“Forty percent of our rail out there is original rail when the system was first built in the late ’60s and early ’70s,” he said. The aged wood is more susceptible to burning and splitting, according to BART.
BART plans to throw “everything we own” (in terms of heavy equipment) at the project, said agency spokesman James Allison. That comprises three powered flats, two flat cars, two speed swings, two gang trucks and two welding trucks.
Crewman operator Freddy Rodriguez said he’s not intimidated by the small window of time for the herculean task.
“A lot of guys are experienced,” he said, “and we have the right manpower.”
Rodriguez and his fellow crew completed the recent replacement of track ties between the Fruitvale and Oakland Coliseum stations ahead of schedule, he said proudly as he stood in front of a 10-foot high pile of track ties he pulled out himself.
But Rodriguez and the 90 or so other crew won’t be alone. The track shutdown is an opportunity for BART to flood the transbay tube with maintenance workers to inspect track and traction power cables, clean third-rail insulators, replace rail and service wayside train control equipment.
Oversier calls this “piggybacking.”
“We’ve got every department in BART — electrical, train control — they’re all piggybacking on this outage to get as much done as we can,” he said.
BART will stop transbay service over two upcoming weekends to repair its tracks.
Time to complete project: 5 days, split over 2 weekends
Wooden “track ties” replaced: 932
Rail replaced: 2,400 feet
Track length: 0.46 miles
Maintenance workers: 90+
Project budget: $2 million
Estimated transbay riders affected: 98,000 Saturday, 80,000 Sunday