May 26–ANTIOCH — The long-awaited Bay Point-to-Antioch BART extension rolled into full-time service Saturday, giving traffic-weary commuters in East Contra Costa a reason to hope.
The service, which provides a rail link from Antioch and Pittsburg to the Bay Point/Pittsburg station and trains headed west, cost $525 million and took nine years from BART board approval to Saturday’s launch.
The extension is expected to ease traffic on often congested Highway 4. If filled to capacity, the train cars will remove from the roadway the equivalent of one lane of traffic during peak commute hours, BART officials said.
Commuters had gotten a little relief even before the new rail extension opened for business, as the busy highway was widened to eight lanes between Loveridge Road in Pittsburg to just west of Highway 160 in Antioch. But even that couldn’t help the morning commute, where even a minor fender bender can bring cars to a near standstill. On some days, traveling Highway 4 between Antioch and Bay Point, which takes just 10 minutes on the BART extension, can take an hour.
All was going smoothly on Saturday with the new line, and although ridership was light, passengers appeared to be enjoying the quick trip from Antioch to Bay Point. Many oohed and aahed over the new cars, which can carry 104 seated passengers and accommodate 96 standing.
The new environmentally friendly diesel-powered cars, which use an advanced fuel produced from bio-based sources such as vegetable oil, might have been the most photographed objects in the Bay Area Saturday as passengers snapped photos and selfies, inside and out of the trains.
Tristan Bryans, 28, of Pittsburg, narrated a video for his girlfriend of himself aboard the train. He also used a camera to record the round trip between Pittsburg and Antioch for his YouTube channel.
Bryans, who said he’s a "huge transit fan," hopped aboard the train Saturday morning just to see how it worked. He said he is thrilled with the new extension.
"It’s very quiet, very smooth, very quick," Bryans said.
He doesn’t ride BART often, but he does plan to make use of the extension to help him get to a program in Antioch that he attends.
Nererda Mosqueda, 33, of Concord, was giddy as she boarded the train at the Bay Point station, taking a few photos of herself in the comfortable new seats.
Mosqueda, whose family lives in Oakley, said she’ll be riding the new line on weekends to visit her family, something she does every week, fighting traffic all the way. Now she plans to take the Concord BART train to Bay Point, walk across the platform and onto the extension line.
"It’s going to a big help," Mosqueda said. "A huge help. I’m so tired of Highway 4 traffic."
Kimbra Brazeal, 29, boarded the train at the Railroad Avenue station, headed to Concord. Brazeal, who was on her way to work Saturday morning, usually drives from her Pittsburg home to the Bay Point station to catch a train into Concord for her job in car sales.
"Railroad gets pretty backed up just trying to get onto Highway 4," she said, "so I can imagine how much better this is going to be."
The stations and platforms were well-staffed by BART employees and police. They answered questions — the most often being "Which way to the stairs?" — and accepted compliments on the new trains, which provide a smoother, quieter ride and have large windows that show the traffic snarls passengers won’t be missing.
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