Construction begins on Downtown Berkeley BART station plaza

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Construction began Monday on the Downtown Berkeley BART station that is estimated to be completed by the end of next year.

Renovations for the Downtown Berkeley BART station will focus primarily on improving the station’s plaza by allowing for more pedestrian access to the BART station and by creating more space to help with traffic congestion, according to city spokesperson Matthai Chakko.

The Downtown Berkeley station is one of BART’s busiest, averaging 13,748 exits per weekday, according to Chris Filippi, a BART spokesman. He added that renovations — which were delayed due to an extended review process — have begun in anticipation for a future increase in BART ridership.

“The overall BART plaza is the portal and gateway for the city,” said CEO of the Downtown Berkeley Association John Caner. “The new plaza will be much more inviting to everyone.”

Improvements to the outdated BART station include a renovated glass rotunda, additional bus shelters, open spaces for bicycles and another stairway at the main entrance to help with pedestrian traffic. Rebecca Saltzman, who sits on the BART Board of Directors, said that riders will have increased visibility coming and leaving the station due to the new transparent design of the main entrance.

The new station design will also target aesthetic improvements, such as a space for local artists to display their work as well as an art installation by local designer Julie Chang in the new entrance.

Saltzman added that construction has been broken into three phases — where each phase will close only one station entrance at a time —  in order to minimize the inconvenience for commuters.

Along with other efforts to revitalize Downtown Berkeley — such as construction on a new hotel, an 18-story apartment complex and a parking garage — the BART plaza project will be critical in providing public open spaces for the area according to Councilmember Jesse Arreguin, who oversees the Downtown Berkeley district. He added that the design of the plaza will improve upon downtown’s public safety by increasing visibility of problematic behaviors on the street.

The cost to renovate the plaza is approximately $11.2 million according to Chakko, who noted that $8.8 million is funded by BART and $2.36 million by the city.

Some of the city funding for the plaza renovation project that was contributed by outside sources comes from grants by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and revenue from Measure BB, an Alameda County transportation commission sales tax approved in 2014, said Councilmember Laurie Capitelli.

According to Saltzman, three BART stations — Powell, 19th Street Oakland and El Cerrito Del Norte — will start construction to upgrade their interiors as BART continues looking for additional funding to renovate the interiors of other stations, like the Downtown Berkeley BART Station.

Contact Roann Pao at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @roann_pao.