The years following the end of World War II brought an influx of new residents to an already crowded Bay Area. California’s new residents pushed city and town boundaries into the surrounding countrysides creating suburbia, which transposed yet another phenomenon: a transportation-stranded society throughout the country. Immediately, “Detroit”, began filling the need with a subsequent automobile manufacturing boom, adding further stress to the nation’s existing, but underdeveloped roadways.
While freeways and overpasses crisscrossed the land, business and civic leaders, with an eye to the future, began planning transportation options to relieve the inevitable: an approaching traffic of enormous proportions. What to do about it? Get people off the highways and bridges and onto an alternate mode of transportation.
To study the Bay Area’s long-range transportation issues and present solutions the State Legislature created the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit Commission in 1951. In their final report in 1957, the Commission recommended forming a 5 county rapid transit district whose mandate would be to build and operate a high-speed rail network connecting the major metropolitan areas with the outlying suburbs. The conceptual idea for BART was created when the State Legislature formed the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District, in 1957.
Initially comprised of 5 counties, Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco and San Mateo the District dropped to three when San Mateo and Marin withdrew. Not to be discouraged, the newly shaped district approached the voters of the remaining three counties, in November of 1962, with a bond measure requesting $792 million to finance a 71.5-mile high-speed transit system. Requiring an approval of 60% of the district voters, the bond measure narrowly passed with 61.2% of the vote. The total cost was projected, in 1962, at $996 million, with the transbay tube and the trains themselves being paid from other sources.
President Lyndon Johnson was present on June 19,1964 to preside over the ground breaking ceremonies of the 4.4 mile Diablo Test track between Concord and Walnut Creek. The 3.2-mile tunnel through the Berkeley Hills was completed in February of 1967. Two years later, in August of 1969, construction of the transbay tube was completed and three years later, on September 11, 1972, 28 miles linking the city of Fremont with the MacArthur station was finished. The initial fares ranged from a 30-cent minimum to a $1.25 maximum.
It’s now been over 30 years and although the fares have increased and some patrons are now paying to park their cars, for those areas being directly serviced, BART can be called a success. However, the residents of eastern Contra Costa and Alameda Counties are wondering if BART will ever come in our lifetime. The cost of bringing BART to Hillcrest has been estimated at over $1 billion dollars.
Looking at the past and then into the future and not seeing BART at either end, TRANSPLAN (a committee created in 1991 to serve as a multi-jurisdictional transportation planning and coordinating group for the eastern portion of Contra Costa County consisting of a City Council member and Planning Commissioner from Oakley, Pittsburg, Antioch, and Brentwood a County Supervisor and a member of the East County Planning Commission) began talking with BART in late 2000 about doing a study on how to bring BART further east. The committee created a subcommittee: The East County Transit Policy Advisory Committee (PAC), and expanded it to include representatives from Bart, Paratransit Coordinating Council, Tri Delta Transit Board and the County Connection bus service Board.
PAC worked with Bart for two years to create a plan on how to bring BART services all the way to Byron. In December of 2002 the BART Board of Directors approved the study.
The study adopted the transit service concept known as eBART, which is based on the idea that a rail service using right-of-way acquired from the Union Pacific Railroad (UPRR) could be developed at a much lower cost than that of an extension of BART.
Operating on new exclusive double tracks alongside a relocated Union Pacific Mococo (Mountain Copper Co.) Line freight track the proposed service would be lightweight, self-propelled rail cars known as Diesel Multiple Units (DMU). With an expected completion date of 2010.
The Mococo line is the portion of the UPRR system between Martinez and Tracy in San Joaquin County. From Martinez heading east, the tracks go through the Concord Naval Weapons Station, Bay Point, Pittsburg, Antioch, Oakley, Brentwood, and Byron, and continue southeast along Byron Highway to Tracy. UPRR has not used the Mococo line for freight service in about twenty years. The tracks have been used for storage of freight cars since then. BART and the Contra Costa Transportation Authority attempted to purchase part of the Mococo line (from Pittsburg to Tracy) for the planned eBART system but were unable to reach agreement on a price with UP. The railroad subsequently said it needed the Mococo line for freight service and will not sell it.
So now the $479 million, initial 10-miles of the eBART line will travel down the median of Highway 4 from the Bay Point BART station to Hillcrest Avenue in Antioch and include a station at Railroad Avenue in Pittsburg. The estimated completion date of 2015 is obviously contingent on the scheduled widening of Highway 4. A transfer platform, which will link eBart passengers to BART, will be constructed at the eastern end of the existing Pittsburg/Bay Point BART Station platform.
This project represents the first phase of a possible 23-mile track that could eventually serve Oakley, Brentwood, and Byron/Discovery Bay. However, funding for this full system is undefined at this time, and major questions are unresolved regarding the route, station locations, and local plans for development. Rail expansion along the full project corridor is likely to occur over multiple phases.