BART should expand line to West County


By Salvador Godoy, Advocate Staff

Ever since BART began operating in 1972 serving the Bay Area, the Richmond line is the only service in the system that has gone without expansion.

In the early 1980s, the BART West Contra Costa Extension began initial studies to find possible ways to expand the BART system to San Pablo, Hilltop, Pinole and Hercules, or a plan to extend the railway north from the El Cerrito Del Norte station.

There has been an effort to bring BART to the West County area in the form of a new analysis conducted by the West Contra Costa Transportation Advisory Committee (WCCTAC) over the last two years.

Recently the WCCTAC Board released several optional BART alignment plans to extend the current Richmond line or create a new link by using the north side of the El Cerrito Del Norte station with an alignment through the I-80 corridor.

The plan would connect San Pablo, the Hilltop Mall area, Pinole and Hercules.

There may be benefits for possible transit-oriented development opportunities for all cities.

The expansion would greatly benefit Hilltop Mall since the property will soon be revitalized once the deal from the buyer is sealed.

An all-elevated design concept connecting all four possible stations would be effective and ease congestion. There would be more urban land opportunities and it would be far cheaper to finance the project compared to designing both an elevated and land-rail system at the same time.

But the question here is why didn’t BART extend to West Contra Costa County decades ago?

The answer goes directly to the involvement of local political backers and back-door-agreements with the local community leaders  exploring outlets to fund large-scale transportation projects.

Despite the studies, in the last decade, real estate developers have been investing into housing projects and businesses which are being developed and zoned throughout parts of the booming West Contra Costa County area.

The city of Hercules is planning an intermodal infill railway station that will service Amtrak Capital Corridor commuters.

The project is scheduled to be completed in 2018.

This could be an approach for BART to consider while analyzing an additional railway alignment as part of the extension studies the WCCTAC has been conducting within the last year.

In present conditions, with high levels of traffic on the corridor, a BART extension to the West County area is predominant in this fast growing, highly populated area.

A BART extension will reduce the amount of traffic congestion on the I-80 corridor

It will provide more flexibility in commuting and in recreational transportation.

Recently, opponents have voiced their opinion on the extension claiming it will affect the property value in the West County area if a BART expansion happens.

According to a Property Value and Fiscal Benefits report by BART, residents who live within half a mile of BART have an estimated 11 percent higher home value compared a home located more than five miles from a BART station.

Bringing BART to West Contra Costa County can happen. There is potential, but involvement is the key to success to make any transportation project come to reality.

Local politicians and communities need to show further interest and provide input with a vision by formulating a long-term plan that will benefit the next generation of residents who will be moving into the area in the future.