The track replacement situation between Fruitvale and Coliseum stations that's going to deeply inconvenience thousands of East Bay BART riders this spring and summer is just the first of many urgent repairs that need to occur on some worn out tracks and rotting wooden ties. Matier & Ross broke the news over the weekend that BART's aging infrastructure is a huge problem that the BART Board has been reluctant to be very public about, for fear of discouraging ridership. But the 42-year-old system has only ever replaced about 20 percent of its tracks, and the average lifespan of these tracks is only supposed to be about 25 years.
Track work requiring complete shutdowns of service between Fruitvale and Coliseum stations began Sunday, April 5, and will continue on weekend days and nights through August. A "bus bridge" will ferry passengers between the stations in the meantime, as BART replaces some "1,000 battered and weather-beaten wooden ties, 2,000 cushioning pads, 3,000 feet of worn rail."
But there are apparently 37 different spots throughout the system where train speeds have now been reduced due to similar track problems, and over fears of another derailment like the one that occurred in February 2014 at Concord Station in which an empty 10-car train was dangling precariously off an elevated track. Speeds in that same area of track have already been reduced to 18 miles per hour.
According to an anonymous person within the BART organization, the urgent track work happening between Fruitvale and Coliseum is long overdue, and the complete track shut-down reflects this urgency. "They are afraid a tie could come loose, cause a derailment and send a train plunging off the tracks,” says the anonymous tipster to the Chron.
As ABC 7 adds, there's a $4 billion price tag for all the track replacement that need to occur, and no one's figured out yet how to fund it. Meanwhile, construction is underway on new extensions to the system, like the Warm Springs Extension in South Fremont which is expected to open this fall. That extension and new station cost about $890 million.
Long story short: Expect some slower service, and more drastic shutdowns related to track replacement, in the coming years.