Tunnel for BART extension in Fremont completed

(KGO)
October 26, 2012 5:26:26 PM PDT
BART celebrated a major milestone Friday and gave the public tours of a key link in its southbound extension to San Jose. A new tunnel will whisk passengers under Fremont's Lake Elizabeth. The lake is a centerpiece of Fremont's Central Park and rather than run tracks over it, BART decided to tunnel underneath it. The project has created thousands of construction jobs and when completed, it may help to support 20,000 high-tech jobs.

Three years of digging under Central Park are over and BART invited the public to take a tour of the subway tunnel it built. The 1.1-mile tunnel is a crucial link for BART trains to reach a new South Fremont station and to San Jose beyond that. The Elseas have lived in Fremont for 32 years. They were among the first to take the tour. "The width didn't surprise me but the depth, how far you had to go down to get to the bottom, that amazed me," Art Elsea said.

Transit agency officials are thrilled the project came in under budget. The tunnel was budgeted for $249 million but the bid came in at $137 million, a savings of $112 million, a result of the downturn in construction work.

Fremont's mayor points out that the tunnel came about only after the city went to court over plans to build elevated track over the park back in the 80s. "Ours was that it was going to destroy the ambiance of the park. With a train going every six minutes going through, it's not noisy, but it creates a stir. So, we actually went to court. We sued and finally settled, and this is the end result," Mayor Gus Morrison said.

The underground project had its challenges. "There's actually an aquifer beneath Central Park and so, creating a dry zone for construction was one of our first challenges," BART Project Manager Paul Medved explained.

Except for two emergency air shafts, the park will be restored. As construction continues southward, the city has ambitious plans to create 20,000 jobs in its Warm Springs area. "We have hundreds of acres available and we've done a lot of planning. Feasibility is there for a mixed-use, upscale job center that Fremont has never seen before," City Manager Fred Diaz said.

Construction is under way and the Warm Springs extension is expected to open in about three years.


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