Noe Valley Voice May 2002

A 30th Street BART Station Would Cost Half a Billion and Take 7 Years to Get Here

By Karen Topakian

Picture this public transit mosaic as envisioned by BART:

The neighborhood around Mission and 30th streets is the staging area for heavy-duty construction. Mission Street is torn up. Automobile traffic is rerouted -- replaced with backhoes, graders, and dump trucks carrying tons of soggy dirt excavated from a long underground tunnel. Dust and grime are everywhere. So is the noise. And klieg lights illuminate the scene when night overtakes day.

Several years later, the mosaic is complete. Familiar car and bicycle traffic returns. Old construction sheds are converted to new stores and apartment buildings. And buried below the hustle and bustle of Mission Street lies the sleek new 30th Street BART Station, whose trains shuttle Upper Noe residents to work and home quicker than ever.

That picture of short-term pain and long-term gain was unveiled April 11 before a packed audience at the Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center. If ultimately built (and that's a big if), the half-billion-dollar station would be San Francisco's first station in more than 25 years.

In releasing its long-awaited study, BART agreed with neighborhood residents that the 30th and Mission hub would be the best location for a new station on the Daly City ­ Colma line. Its location midway between the Glen Park and 24th Street stations would provide connections to four Muni bus lines (the 24, 14, 14L, and 67) and the J-Church Muni Metro. It also would serve four San Francisco neighborhoods not directly served by BART -- the Fairmount, Outer Mission, Bernal Heights, and Upper Noe Valley -- closing the largest gap of any BART line in San Francisco.

BART executives Peter Albert and Jim Gravesande outlined two possible configurations, both of which placed the station and tracks underground.

One calls for constructing a new set of tracks on either side of two platforms -- with an option to put a pocket track between the platforms.

The second scenario would keep the existing BART tracks, which currently rise at a 3 percent grade in the direction of Glen Park. But it would build two additional tracks outside two new platforms. The new tracks and platforms would be level. (A 3 percent grade would violate the 1 percent grade now set by both BART and the Americans with Disabilities Act.)

"The advantage of this four-track configuration is that disabled trains could be stored on either of the two central tracks without blocking the through-train traffic," said Albert, BART's planning manager for San Francisco and the West Bay. "No other point in the subway in San Francisco allows for this storage, which often leads to service delays when a train goes out," he said. "In addition to allowing train storage, this one also allows trains to bypass the station if an emergency run is needed, without disrupting normal service."

For public transit users, the major benefit would be improved reliability and travel time from 30th Street to downtown, the Peninsula, and the East Bay. Putting a station at 30th and Mission also would offer riders more choice and relief from crowded Mission Street Muni lines, Albert said. Best of all, it would encourage people with cars to leave them at home, and therefore help the environment.

BART predicts that it would take seven years to complete the project, including funding, design, and construction.

Most questions from the audience focused on the potential disruption of traffic and parking along the busy Mission Street corridor. Gravesande stated unequivocally that 1,500 feet of Mission Street between 29th and 30th streets would have to be torn up for 42 months. Parking would not be allowed during the construction phase. He predicted that only two lanes of Mission Street would be functional from months 3 to 11.

Both BART representatives outlined the major impacts to the community. The effects of construction -- noise, dust, utilities, and transportation disruptions and night work -- topped the short-term list. Major disruptions to sewer, water, and utilities also were likely.

The 31/2 years of excavation and construction would occur in four stages. First, BART would reroute traffic, clear the construction site, and excavate the current tunnels. Then workers would dig new tunnels beside the old ones and create a temporary street sidewalk built over the excavation. The third stage would include completing the construction of the tunnels and platforms and re-routing traffic around the construction site. In the final stage, the station would become fully functional, normal traffic would be restored, and new shops, housing, parks, or other amenities would be built.

"Once the station is built -- if we decide to go that route -- the site used for storing materials for excavation of the tunnels would be available for development," Albert said.

So what would all this cost?

The price tag for constructing a new station with two new tracks (and the pocket track) was estimated at $526 million. Eliminate the pocket track and the cost came in at $444 million. The four-track second option would cost $461 million.

To put the cost in perspective, BART officials noted that the current Caltrain Extension/Transbay Terminal project has a nearly $2 billion price tag, while BART to Warm Springs is going to run $634 million, and the BART Oakland Airport Connector will cost $232 million.

The planners also stressed that a new BART station in San Francisco was far from a reality. In fact, it will take more funding and strong advocacy on the part of local residents for BART to pursue the project beyond the study stage.

"The community needs to lead the planning for any next steps," Albert said. "The degree of construction impacts, the amount of land used for construction, the kinds of development on those lands, the kinds of traffic solutions and transit connections around the new station, these are all matters that need to be decided by the community and BART together."

"By 'community,'" he continued, "[I mean] many different communities: neighboring residents, residents who live farther away but might be impacted, transit riders on BART and Muni, drivers in the Mission corridor, and merchants, businesses, city agencies, et cetera."

BART will continue to seek feedback on the study, which will be completed soon after incorporating public comment from the meeting. The community planning process may start as early as July, said Mauricio Vela, executive director of the Bernal Heights group that hosted the BART presentation.

To obtain a copy of the 18-month study, contact Peter Albert at BART, 212 Ninth Street, Oakland, CA 94607, or call him at 510-287-4702.