BART sent a press release Wednesday regarding the transit system’s planned replacement of old third rails using Measure RR funds.
According to BART spokesperson Chris Filippi, Measure RR, approved in 2016, allows the issuance of $3.5 billion in bonds to fund infrastructure rebuilding projects across the BART system. Part of those rebuilding projects is replacing the third rail, the electrified rail that powers BART trains.
“Measure RR allows BART to focus on rebuilding critical sections of trackway, stations, and other infrastructure to provide our riders with a service they can rely on,” Filippi said in an email. “Much of the work happening in the early stages of RR is replacing equipment that is decades old and has outlived its useful life.”
According to Filippi, 32 projects have already been completed or are under construction, and more than 50 additional projects are being planned. As of March 2019, $218.3 million of Measure RR funds have been used. Filippi said that while there is no annual spending goal, BART’s target is to spend $300 million on infrastructure projects by June 2020.
From August until October, BART’s primary focus will be working on the tracks between the Orinda and Walnut Creek stations, including replacing 3,200 feet of third rail, according to Filippi. Filippi added that riders will feel the benefits of the replaced infrastructure, as it will be brought up to “industry standard” and is much more durable than the previous infrastructure.
“Without the third rail our trains would not receive the power they need to move across the system,” Filippi said in an email. “The reason for replacing the third rail is no different than the reason we’re replacing the primary trackway or electrical cabling; the components on many sections of the BART system have outlived their useful lives.”
The original third rails were built in the 1960s and ’70s; however, by 1990, these rails approached the end of their useful lives, which impacted performance and efficiency, according to BART’s website. The newer, stainless steel-capped aluminum third rails, which were tested by BART a few years ago, proved to be more conductive, more economical, lighter and more flexible than previous rails, according to BART’s website. BART will be moving forward to install these rails systemwide.
Filippi said Measure RR’s earliest work was rebuilding tracks that carry a high number of passengers and tracks that were old. Filippi added that this work was done between the Pleasant Hill/Contra Costa Centre and Walnut Creek stations, as well as between the West Oakland and 12th Street/Oakland City Center stations.
“The biggest impact for riders is Measure RR is allowing BART to move forward with major rebuilding projects that are already having a direct impact on improving the system’s reliability,” Filippi said in an email. “The work also improves the safety of the system and will provide riders with a quieter ride.”