25 September 2008

State to allocate $239 million for BART-to-SJ extension

Gary Richards, a.k.a. Mr. Roadshow, reports that the California Transportation Commission is expected to approve $239 million in additional state funding for the Silicon Valley BART extension. In the process, $91 million is being moved from the Dumbarton Rail project to the BART extension.

The last bit of funding completes the state responsibility. It's now up to Santa Clara County voters to approve Measure B, which is meant to cover operations costs of the extension (it does not claim to guarantee covering those costs). Should the measure pass, the matter would go to the Federal Railroad Administration, which would have to authorize matching funds to pay for $750 million in construction costs. Previously, the FRA didn't support the project in part because of the lack of a method to cover operations costs. The FRA's 2004 decision forced VTA and BART extension supporters to go back to the drawing board in hopes of getting the line built.

Richards ends the article with this appraisal:

But the 2000 measure centered on BART won with a 71 percent approval, by far the biggest margin of victory of five transportation taxes that have gone before voters since 1976. And this week's money boost gives BART backers a head of steam heading into the election.

"Big projects need momentum," said Metropolitan Transportation Commission spokesman Randy Rentschler. "And BART is picking up big momentum."

From a regional transit perspective, losing funding for the Dumbarton Rail project hurts. I sense that priorities shifted a bit when the High Speed Rail commission chose the Pacheco alignment over Altamont, which would likely have required a revamped or all new Dumbarton rail bridge to cross the bay.

November 4th is shaping up to be the biggest election day in a generation.

Memorial Stadium retrofit solution

Carolyn Jones, who has recently covered the A's stadium beat, has her sights set slightly north in her new article. This time the stadium in question is Cal's Memorial Stadium, which as longtime Bay Area residents know, sits smack-dab on top of the Hayward Fault.

Lost in all the hubbub about the new, adjacent athletic training center and the oak grove that it is displacing, is the sobering fact that the old stadium was in poor shape in the event of The Big One. For the Bears to continue playing there into the distant future, a retrofit is needed.

Thankfully, it appears that a group of seismic engineers has figured out a way to do it for about the cost of Mt. Davis (not adjusting for inflation). Here's the description of the major part of the solution:
At Memorial Stadium, the sections directly on top of the fault will be cut into three large free-floating blocks. The blocks will be separated from the surrounding structure by five feet of open space, which will give the blocks room to wobble and twist - but not topple - in the event of an earthquake.
Normally stadia have simple expansion joints in decks and walls to handle various types of jostling. This takes that idea to the extreme. By cutting gaps in the two fault-affected stadium sections and splitting each one into three independent pieces, the edifice is being split into two "halves" with what could be considered free-floating end sections sitting on plastic. The free-floating ends could slide around when an earthquake hits, while the two halves would move in accordance with their respective plates.

$150 million won't just pay for a few saws and plastic sheeting. There's a regular retrofit too along the western side:
The western half of the stadium will undergo a standard retrofit, with bracing, sheer walls and an extra layer of concrete coating the interior. The concrete will have breaks at either end over the fault, so if the stadium cracks it will crack in a designated and relatively clean way.
This is important because unlike the eastern side and the old Stanford Stadium, this side is not built into a hill. It's old, decaying reinforced concrete with access tunnels and vomitories.

I for one am glad to hear about this simple, sensible plan. At a time when numerous Division I-A/Bowl Subdivision teams are building bigger and more expensive expansions onto their existing stadia, it's nice to see that UC is working to preserve the current experience while fulfilling a great need in seismic safety.

Now the remaining question is: Will Jeff Tedford still be there when the retrofit is done?