Big BART Project in Lafayette Promises Major Weekend Delays for Riders – and Drivers

Aug 14, 2019
Originally published on August 14, 2019 2:55 pm

BART is giving riders a heads-up that a major reconstruction project on its Antioch-Millbrae line will have a major impact on weekend trips in Contra Costa County starting this Friday night.

But the project — which will replace a mile of nearly 50-year-old rails, electrical equipment and other trackside gear near the Lafayette Station — includes a major wrinkle: two lanes of the adjacent freeway, Highway 24, will also be shut down for six separate weekends between now and late October.

And that means that drivers headed eastbound from Oakland through the Caldecott Tunnel into Contra Costa County may see some major delays on their weekend trips during the project, which begins at 11 p.m. this Friday night.

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The weekend lane closures are necessary because BART needs to use a 265-ton crane to facilitate the work, which will involve lifting hundreds of 80-foot rail sections, each weighing thousands of pounds, into place. The only place to put the crane: in two left-hand lanes of eastbound Highway 24.

Both BART and Caltrans are trying to get the word out that travelers, and especially drivers, should prepare for the delays and avoid the area if they can.

“We do expect that if motorists don’t take other routes, we’re going to very quickly get to a 30-minute backup that will be 3 miles or more long, almost all the way back to the Caldecott Tunnel,” Bart Ney, spokesman for Caltrans District 4, said Tuesday. “That’s what we saw when there was a trial run of the work a couple weekends ago.”

Ney said Caltrans will monitor the backup and has worked out a plan with BART if it’s worse than expected.

“If we see that type of backup again, we can call into them and have them pick up half the closure” — one lane — and restore the traffic through the area,” Ney said.

BART spokesman Chris Filippi said that having to reduce the closure from two lanes to one will affect the project’s work schedule.

“If that happens, it will slow down the work, because we’ll have to restage some of the equipment, we’ll have to move things around,” Filippi said.

BART riders on the Antioch-Millbrae line can also expect long delays getting through Contra Costa County.

On the six weekends where tracks will be completely shut down, no trains will run between the Orinda and Walnut Creek stations. BART will provide buses between those points — but the buses from Orinda will be forced to go through whatever traffic jam forms on eastbound Highway 24.

“The buses are free, but they’re going to get stuck in traffic,” Filippi said. “When we’ve done past track shutdowns, we’ve told folks on BART to expect delays of about 20 minutes. But in this case we’re more than doubling it — we’re going to 40 minutes and telling people that it could even go above that, to 40 minutes or more.”

BART says the six weekends on which the tracks will be completely shut down are:

This weekend, Aug. 17-18
Labor Day weekend, Aug. 31-Sept. 2
Sept. 14-15
Sept. 28-29
Oct. 12-13
Oct. 26-27

On each shutdown weekend, BART plans to begin work and close two eastbound Highway 24 lanes at 11 p.m. on Friday evenings. The two lanes — the No. 1 and 2 lanes, or those on the left of the roadway — will remain closed until Monday mornings, when one lane will reopen at 6 a.m. and the second at 7 a.m.

The project will also affect Highway 24 traffic and BART service on four other weekends, with the agency single-tracking trains on four upcoming Saturdays: Aug. 24, Sept. 7, Sept. 21 and Oct. 19. Overnight shutdowns of two of the freeway’s eastbound lanes will occur on those dates, too, running from 11 p.m. on Friday evenings to 7 a.m. Saturday mornings and 11 p.m. Saturday evenings through 9 a.m. Sunday mornings.

BART is paying for the work with funds from 2016’s $3.5 Measure RR. That $3.5 billion measure will also pay for the next round of BART track replacement, scheduled sometime next year near the Orinda Station.

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