How Alameda County could get more out of its rail dollars

This article was written in November 1997. Alameda County's Measure B renewal was placed on the June 1998 ballot, but failed to receive the two-thirds "yes" votes needed to pass.

Alameda County prioritizes rail in Measure B renewal

Since April 1997, plans have been drawn up in Alameda County for a half-cent sales tax ballot measure to fund transportation. The predecessor to this ballot measure was known as Measure B, passed by voters in 1986.

An appointed Expenditure Plan Development Committee (EPDC) agreed in October on a package of transportation capital and operating costs to be funded through the ballot measure, expected to be voted on next November.

The most costly capital project on the list to be funded through the tax is the Warm Springs BART extension. The $540 million project would extend BART's Fremont line approximately five miles south within Fremont. It is considered to be the first leg in an eventual extension to Santa Clara County.

Due to efforts of transit activists and environmental groups, the initial list of priorities were altered to include fewer road projects that would promote "sprawl 'n crawl" development, and instead provide more funding for urban transit operations.

Many were concerned about the inclusion of the Warm Springs BART project. Warm Springs was strongly favored by the City of Fremont. Peninsula Rail 2000 submitted detailed comments on how the $540 million for Warm Springs could be spent more effectively on capital improvements and new service on existing rail lines.

As a result of these efforts, EPDC decided to include language in its recommendation that could allow funds for Warm Springs to be used instead to develop other rail connections from Fremont to the South Bay. Their recommendation allows this if funding were insufficient to build the Warm Springs project.

PR2000 proposes new rail routes for Alameda County

This list enumerates $540 million in capital expenditures for initiation of new rail service that could run at transit frequencies throughout Alameda County. These projects especially address the need for service to Peninsula and South Bay destinations. The total cost of all these projects is the same amount proposed to be spent on approximately five miles of BART extension from the present Fremont station to Warm Springs in south Fremont.

  1. Electrify the existing rail line from the Oakland Coliseum to San Jose along the Amtrak Capitol Corridor route through Centerville and Santa Clara ($150 million for 48 miles of single track overhead caternary, 15 trainsets).

  2. Work with San Mateo County to rehabilitate the Dumbarton rail bridge ($60 million, half of San Mateo County's $120 million estimate), establish rail service in a South Bay loop that links San Jose, Fremont and the Peninsula. The loop would include Santa Clara, Fremont, Redwood City and loop back to Santa Clara/San Jose.

  3. Upgrade and double track the Capitol Corridor route between Fremont and San Jose to enable 90 mph+ operating speeds. This would include signaling and track upgrades ($40 million).

  4. Purchase 40 Diesel Multiple Units (DMUs, $100 million) and 60 double deck commuter rail cars ($100 million).

  5. Build a "transfer only" station for connection with BART and other regional rail services at Shinn Rd. in Fremont ($40 million).

  6. Upgrade tracks and signaling along the former WP route to Warm Springs through Milpitas to San Jose for light rail service in that corridor ($50 million).

Map, 19k GIF, giving overview of the PR2000 proposal for Alameda County rail, three of these routes are shown.

The DMUs would provide diesel light rail service between Fremont (Centerville Amtrak station) and San Jose via Milpitas and Warm Springs, connected to BART at Shinn Rd. The double deck commuter rail cars would be for express commuter service from a BART connection at the Oakland Coliseum to San Jose, for Altamont Commuter Express service from Livermore to San Jose and the South Bay loop.

BART director questions Warm Springs extension

BART board member Roy Nakadegawa expressed his skepticism of the Warm Springs extension in the following excerpt from a letter to the other BART board members and staff:

"[I]t is disheartening that we submitted Warm Springs Extension as a Measure B Project. It will cost $700 Million and provide only 6,000 or possibly 2,000 [daily] trips. Using FTA's Cost Effective Index, it will cost at least $70/trip per new rider. This line will only be used primarily for commuting or 25% of each new rider's daily trips. Why? Because its use is when roads are congested! Are we to reward this person who created the congestion by moving out or promote even greater sprawl? This $140 round trip represents what 4.5 families of 3, or what 13 people on welfare get for bare day to day survival! Approximately 2/3 of Muni bus lines, 8 AC lines carries 6,000 + trips and one line in Fremont area already carries more than the Irvington's 2,000 trip BART Alternative and some of this service is being cut back!

"If we are to submit such a project, as a minimum, we should place a mandate on the communities that BART will serve, to change their master plan for high density, multi use nodes as transit villages with minimal parking, along with limiting expansion of low density sprawl. And if they change this plan in the future, they will be responsible to make up the difference in fare recovery of that portion of line from BART's systemwide fare recovery."

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Last updated: October 23, 1998

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