September is National Rail Safety Month and VTA is looking to start it off in a BIG way with the electrification of the third rail that will power future BART trains.
System testing is underway on VTA’s 10-mile, two-station BART Berryessa Extension. Unlike VTA's light rail trains that are powered by overhead lines, the BART system consists of two high voltage substations, six traction power substations, and contact rails. The contact rails located alongside the train tracks, known as the third rail, will be powered by 1,000 volts of electricity. High voltage paddles on the underside of the BART trains come in contact with the third rail, feeding the trains the power necessary to run along the track.
Making contact with the third rail is life-threatening and likely to result in death by electrocution.
“It's equivalent to 100, 9-volt batteries,” explains John Engstrom, VTA’s BART Project Manager. “You can’t see the current, you can’t smell the current, but if you touch the current, it will be too late.”
The BART heavy rail system is completely different from VTA’s light rail system. BART is a closed system with a restricted right of way, as opposed to the open light rail track and platforms that are meant to coexist with pedestrians and vehicles. The 10-mile BART extension is entirely separated from vehicle, bicycle and foot traffic so not to disrupt traffic flow and provide a safe and accessible environment for the public.
“Now that we are in the system testing phase, the site becomes extremely dangerous,” warns Engstrom. “Every person in the public needs to understand that the BART right of way is not a shortcut, it is not accessible for a reason – for people’s protection.”
The Home StretchSince the extension broke ground in April 2012, several significant milestones have been met as the project makes great strides toward the start of passenger service in late 2017.
Over the last four years, crews have completed major components of the project including:
- Built bridges and 2.5 miles of trenches for BART trains to pass under or over 13 major intersections (fully grade separated!)
- Constructed approximately 10 miles of track way, including a 1-mile aerial section
- Excavated 700,000 cubic yards of dirt – equal to 58,000 dump trucks
- Poured 280,000 cubic yards of concrete – equal to 28,000 concrete trucks
With a little over a year left before service begins, some of the remaining activities that are nearing completion on the largest capital project in South Bay history include:
- Connecting the infrastructure, track work and systems of the Berryessa Extension to the Warm Springs BART Station
- Finalizing the track installation work (total of 20 miles, 10 in each direction)
- Completing the installation of traction power cable (22 miles total) and communication cable (over 325 miles total)
- Completing the Milpitas and Berryessa BART Station buildings, campus areas and roadways