Downtown BART plaza renovation pushed back to September

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David Rodriguez/Staff

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Construction of the Downtown Berkeley BART plaza has been delayed for the second time, to September, almost a year after its originally mandated completion date.

The plaza was expected to be finished by September 2017, but because of weather conditions and contractor disputes, its opening has been pushed back to September 2018.

“Construction is underway and the project should be complete in a matter of weeks,” said Alicia Trost, the BART communications department manager, in an email. “We will announce an opening date as we get closer.”

This renovation is one of the three main projects funded by the Alameda County Transportation Commission’s 2013 grant. Jim Bondi, an associate management analyst in the city of Berkeley’s Department of Planning and Development, said the renovation was not a project under the department’s jurisdiction.

According to the BART website, the station plaza will include a new main entrance enclosure, landscaping, paving, bus shelters and LED lighting. The website for the primary contractor, USS Cal Builders, added that on the plaza level there will be bike racks, light poles, piping and asphalt paving.

Anna Duckworth, BART communications officer, said the unexpected rain in April 2017 was a key factor in the construction delay.

“We had to keep the entrance covered to prevent water from entering the station. Removing the cover once the rain ended took time,” Duckworth said in an email. “In addition, the rain delayed concrete work and other activities.”

According to Duckworth, the contract between BART and USS Cal Builders required that the construction be finished within 450 days of its signing in July 2016, which would have put the initial finishing date at October 2017. However, because of the rain, 58 days were added to the contract requirement, postponing completion to December 2017. At the time, the primary contractor said the plaza could be finished by September 2017.

Duckworth said disputes between the primary contractor and its subcontractors also caused delays. USS Cal Builders spokesperson Arleene Zargan attributed the delays to other factors, such as the necessity of constant communication in construction.

“I wouldn’t call it a dispute,” Zargan said. “There will always be questions and answers going back and forth; it’s a normal construction procedure.”

According to Duckworth, the latest delay has to do with changes in leadership.

The $7.6 million project was approved Apr. 14, 2016, and construction began in August 2016.

Although the delays in finishing the plaza do not seem to be affecting commuters, Duckworth acknowledged that navigating to and from the station could be a little more challenging. She said despite the setbacks, BART has pursued all avenues to complete construction.

“BART diligently worked with all of the contractors to find (a) resolution,” Duckworth said in an email.

Contact Kelly Yang at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @KellyYangMSJ.