Transit agencies prepare for spending spree 

An expanded Muni line to Chinatown and all new BART cars are among the ambitious transit plans as Bay Area transit agencies are gearing up to spend the $1.3 billion they stand to receive from recently approved infrastructure bond funds.

Under Proposition 1B, approved by voters in November, the Bay Area will receive a major cut of the $3.6 billion in statewide transit funds to be spent over the next 10 years. Transit funds represent about 18 percent of the total $19.9 billion in statewide Prop. 1B funds.

Just over $922 million will go directly to a dozen Bay Area transit agencies, including the two largest by ridership — Muni and BART — as well as Caltrain and SamTrans on the Peninsula.

The Metropolitan Transportation Commission, scheduled to open a two-month-long public hearing period today on how it should divvy up an additional $347 million, has preliminarily recommended that $100 million go for the extension of the Third Street light-rail line from AT&T Park to Chinatown.

Another $24 million could be set aside for the stalled BART extension to Warm Springs in Fremont, according to MTC spokesman John Goodwin. Valley Transit, in Santa Clara County, stands to receive about $45 million, with the rest to be spread around to agencies in Marin, Sonoma, Napa and beyond, according to MTC’s initial recommendations.

"This is certainly money that will help improve transit service and provide better, more comfortable and convenient rides for patrons," Goodwin said.

Muni expects to double the $100 million from MTC with $100 million of its own to pay for the new $1.4 billion Chinatown extension, said Muni spokeswoman Maggie Lynch, whose agency is slated to receive about $336 million overall.

Lynch said there was much support from the community for the Muni extension, also known as the Central Subway, which she said is expected to result in approximately 93,000 trips per day.

BART, which will receive about $248 million according to the MTC, plans to put the money toward replacing its cars, some of which are 35 years old, spokesman Linton Johnson said.

"We plan to replace our entire fleet of 669 rail cars and modernize our stations," Johnson said.

A final decision will be made on MTC’s $347 million at the agency’s board meeting May 23, Goodwin said.

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