BART’s Link 21 Project: Questions in Need of Answers

BART began work on the Link 21 program in 2019. As of the end of 2022, $82 million been spent…with little to show for the effort but a preliminary marketing plan subject to significant revision and the sketchy sketch plans shown below. Mostly we hear of lofty goals and projections and vague conclusions.

On January 14, 2023 the Bay Area Transportation Working Group (BATWG) sent an open Letter to the BART Board. Here are extracts from that letter; graphics added:

“BATWG has now completed an initial review of the six alternatives your staff placed on the Link21 website in January of this year.

Read more here

See (scroll to “Select an Example Concept”)

The alternatives; namely “Regional Rail A and B”, “Combined Regional Rail/BART A and B” and “BART A and B” ,while sketchy, were helpful in better acquainting us on how things are progressing. 

Pursuant to our review, here are questions in need of answers before substantial additional consultant work is done. These are issues that are, or at least should be, of immediate concern:

Regional Rail Alternative B

Regional Rail Alternative A


  1. Over $100 million has already been spent planning the Link 21 program. Other than a preliminary marketing analysis and the six sketch alternatives, what are the products of this large expenditure?

Combined Regional Rail and BART Alternative A

Combined Regional Rail and BART Alternative B

  1. Post COVID, the permanent long range travel changes will likely include a permanent shift to work-at-home for at least three days a week for many categories of employees, a dispersion of both residents and places of employment away from cities, and a significant drop in the level of activity of San Francisco’s financial district. BART’s pre-COVID ridership was about 450,000 riders a day.
    Today’s ridership is running about half that many. What amount of total transbay BART ridership would justify a $30 to $40 billion second rail tube? Has your original plan for Link 21 been modified to reflect currently anticipated conditions? Does the Region still even need a second tube? If so, why?
  1. The Salesforce Transit Center has been listed as a west-side connection alternative, but with the warning that “costs could be prohibitive”. It is essential that the cost of this connection be determined immediately. Consultant ARUP is already well aware of the nearby buildings and their geotechnical underpinnings and should therefore be able to come up with a conceptual cost fairly quickly.
  1. The BART Staff is apparently considering sending both BART and standard gauge trains under the Bay. If so, please enumerate the advantages of this alternative.
  1. In the BART and Combined alternatives, BART is shown as extending under San Francisco Market Street, but where under Market Street and to what destination? Could you be more specific? How would extending BART beyond Salesforce affect the cost of the project?
  1. In the BART and “Combined” alternatives it is proposed to relocate the Jack London Capital Corridor Station to connect directly with a new Jack London BARTsubway station. Can a BART/CC transfer arrangement be fitted in. and under, JLS? What would be the cost of adding this station? 
  1. “Cost Containment” has been emphasized. Cost containment how? Please outline at least 10 areas of opportunity.

It is rumored the project is being run by HNTB. If so, it is suggested that HNTB’s top management be asked to describe Link21’s key accomplishments to date, as well as address the above questions.

If there is resistance to addressing these issues in a timely manner, it is strongly recommended that a team of seasoned outside peer reviewers well experienced in the heavy engineering and project control aspects of major public infrastructure projects be brought in to spend a week going over everything that has been done to date. Peer reviews conducted early in the lives of major projects often pay big dividends.

If you want further information, please do hesitate to call us.

Sincerely yours,

Gerald Cauthen P.E.
President, Bay Area Transportation Working Group (BATWG)
510 708 7880

On February 28th BART’s Link 21 Project Manager sent us a long answer to our questions, couched in the same vague and general language that has plagued us for the last two years. Mostly it was once again mostly about the things they planned to do in the future.

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