San Francisco’s Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART) will increase the frequency of its train service and the length of its trains, thanks to a federal grant aimed at relieving crowding and creating capacity for growth.
BART’s Transbay Corridor Core Capacity Program (TCCCP) is the latest recipient of a Full Funding Grant Agreement (FFGA) for a Core Capacity project. Created by the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21), Core Capacity is a category of eligibility for discretionary Capital Investment Grant (CIG) funds from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA).
WSP USA served as the program “integrator”. The firm’s role included strategic advice and guidance on the grant program and FTA requirements. WSP also prepared:
- integrated cost estimate and schedule,
- financial plan;
- NEPA documentation;
- risk assessment;
- project justification;
- project management plans and subplans; and
- state grant applications.
“Eligibility for funding requires a demonstration that a corridor is at capacity today, or will be within five years, and that the project will increase capacity by at least 10 percent,” said Donald Emerson, WSP senior vice president and the firm's program director for the TCCCP. “WSP was able to demonstrate to FTA that the TCCCP met these requirements.”
The $1.169 billion FFGA is the largest Core Capacity grant ever awarded by FTA. It will allow BART to increase service through the Transbay Tube, connecting San Francisco and Oakland, by more than 45 percent.
WSP joined the TCCCP effort in 2014 – shortly after the enactment of MAP-21 – meeting with BART officials to discuss the newly created Core Capacity funding opportunity.
“BART had performed several planning studies to assess future operating scenarios and their capital requirements,” Emerson said. “Based on their prior studies, they asked WSP to help identify a package of projects that would meet Core Capacity eligibility requirements and successfully compete for funding.”
After evaluating several potential packages, BART selected a package consisting of four elements – a new communications-based train control (CBTC) system, additional rail cars, an expanded rail car storage yard and additional traction power substations – to increase train frequency and length.
With FTA’s 2015 approval into project development, the process was just beginning. WSP supported BART throughout the project development phase to advance a proposal that could successfully achieve FTA approval into engineering.
Initially, each element of the program had its own independent project team. It was soon apparent that integration of the four elements into one initiative was necessary if the grant request was going to be successful. WSP assumed the responsibility of “integrator” to tie the four elements together.
WSP worked with each of the project teams to develop an integrated cost estimate and schedule, financial plan, categorical exclusion, risk assessment and a set of project management plans and subplans.
“BART had not advanced a project for CIG funding in more than 20 years,” Emerson said. “WSP, with considerable experience in the process, ‘coached’ the BART team through the FTA’s requirements for CIG projects.”
BART’s program includes a new train control system, additional rail cars, an expanded storage yard and new traction power substations, increasing train frequency and length.
BART satisfied FTA’s Project Development requirements in 2017, but it wasn’t until mid-2019 that the FTA approved the TCCCP into Engineering.
“The Trump Administration’s initial budget did not recommend new projects for CIG funding, casting doubt on whether BART’s pursuit of CIG funding would be successful,” Emerson said. “Once that was resolved, FTA issued new risk assessment requirements that grantees had to meet prior to engineering approval, raising the bar on the acceptable level of risk.”
Once FTA’s approved the TCCCP into Engineering, BART increased its staff to manage the program, but WSP continued to serve as program integrator. The financial plan and project justification templates were refreshed to reflect evolving cost estimates and schedules.
“The CBTC procurement led to higher bids than anticipated, but the added cost was offset by savings on the rail car procurement,” Emerson said.
The successful approval and signing of the FFGA in September 2020 also released a California state grant for over $300 million.
“BART would not have been able to implement a project of this breadth and impact without securing the FTA and state grants,” Emerson said.
Ready to Proceed
With the funding in place, BART can now proceed with its $3.5 billion TCCCP package, which will add 306 train cars, implement CBTC throughout the BART system, expand the Hayward Maintenance Complex to provide additional storage capacity and add traction power substations to meet the requirements for powering 30 10-car trains per hour.
With signing of the FFGA and implementation of the program underway, WSP will remain involved as support to BART’s program manager during implementation. Emerson is thrilled to have had the opportunity to help BART secure the Core Capacity grant and pave the way for improved transit in the Bay Area.
“Successful completion of FFGA is a highlight of my career,” Emerson said. “The BART staff were great partners and were determined to do the project right.”
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