BART vows to fix Transbay Tube

A major seismic retrofit of BART’s Transbay Tube will continue as planned despite state proposals to slash the transit system’s 2007-08 budget and postpone funding for the safety project, officials said.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has proposed diverting $1.3 billion away from public transit, and as a result, the California Transportation Commission is recommending that some major projects be delayed.

Although BART stands to lose $38 million toward the Transbay Tube retrofit, officials said the project would press on with funding from a $980 million bond California voters approved in 2004.

“If the governor cuts the funding, we’re not going to put our riders in danger,” said Tom Radulovich, a member of BART’s board of directors.

As a whole, Bay Area transit agencies, including AC Transit, Caltrain and SamTrans, among others, would lose about $145 million from next year’s operating budgets. BART would lose a total of $64 million.

BART’s earthquake safety program will retrofit portions of the transit agency’s original system, built in the early 1970s — which includes 74 miles of track and 34 stations in Alameda, Contra Costa and San Francisco counties.

Besides the Transbay Tube, which carries 150,000 riders across the Bay each day, the original system also includes the Berkeley Hills Tunnel, train maintenance yards and administration facilities.

Upgrading the Transbay Tube, aerial railways and stations along the original system are BART’s highest priorities.

In the event of a major earthquake, portions of BART could shut down for two and a half years or more for repairs, sending hundreds of thousands of people back to their vehicles, according to a BART report.

“We don’t want people to think it’s unsafe to ride BART,” said Tara Stafford, of the California Public Interest Research Group. “But this retrofit needs to happen.”

Public transit advocates say the proposed cutbacks couldn’t come at a worse time, citing heavy traffic gridlock, ambitious greenhouse-gas mandates and a growing population that will make public transit all the more crucial.

“Even with new fuel and vehicle technologies, our total emissions will continue to increase due to expected regional growth,” said John Knox White, of the Transportation and Land Use Coalition, a public transit and pedestrian advocacy organization based in Oakland.

While the Transbay Tube project will carry on, BART officials said otherportions of the retrofit would likely be delayed if the state does not come through with the $38 million. Stations and tracks near the endpoints of the Pittsburg/Bay Point, Fremont and Richmond lines would feel the pinch first.

“If the music stops and we’re short a chair, those are the ones that are left standing,” Radulovich said.

arocha@examiner.com

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