A Richmond official who also sits on the Hercules Planning Commission wants to put the kibosh on talk of extending BART north along Interstate 80, saying it would isolate and downgrade the downtown Richmond station.

"Please contact representatives at BART and express opposition to any discussion that would look at reducing the downtown Richmond station to a secondary status," Richard Mitchell, Richmond's director of Planning and Building Services, said in an April 5 interdepartmental correspondence draft addressed to Contra Costa County Supervisor John Gioia of Richmond.

The letter is attached to a report accompanying a proposed resolution before county supervisors on Tuesday that would support a study of a BART, or alternative rail extension, in West Contra Costa County, without specifying any alignment.

"We support extension of BART from the Richmond station only," Mitchell wrote.

The Richmond City Council, too, will vote Tuesday on a proposed resolution to support a BART study, but unlike the county's, Richmond's specifies "extension from the Richmond station as the preferred option."

BART Director Zakhary Mallett, whose District 7 covers most of West Contra Costa as well as parts of Alameda County and San Francisco, has suggested extending BART north from El Cerrito Del Norte to San Pablo, Richmond's Hilltop section, Pinole and Hercules. He is trying to drum up support from the county and the various West County cities for a study. The Pinole and San Pablo city councils have given their support.


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"It is my hypothesis that an alignment along I-80 would be the most feasible," Mallett said Monday, "but we need to do a study to objectively determine which alignment will actually be the most feasible."

An I-80 alignment would offer commuters on the Bay Area's most congested freeway a convenient alternative, which an alignment away from the freeway would not, he said.

Citing a 2008 station profile study, he said about 40 percent of Richmond BART's ridership and 60 percent of El Cerrito Del Norte's ridership live in San Pablo, El Sobrante or communities north of Richmond.

In April, El Cerrito Del Norte logged an average of 8,741 daily "exits," a measure that approximates the number of round-trips -- more than double the 3,920 daily "exits" at Richmond BART, according to the Monthly Ridership Reports page on the BART website.

Mallett said that state and federal environmental regulations mandate that any BART study look at alternative alignments -- which would include proposed alignments through downtown Richmond.

Possible alignments for a BART extension proposed as far back as the 1980s have included the I-80 routing as well as several possible routes proceeding from downtown Richmond: along the Union Pacific, formerly Southern Pacific, railroad right of way along the San Pablo Bay shore to the Rodeo-Crockett area; via the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway right of way to the Pinole-Hercules area; or up Rumrill Boulevard through San Pablo near Contra Costa College, to Richmond Hilltop, and from there north to Hercules along I-80 beginning at Richmond Parkway.

A BART northward extension in West Contra Costa faces daunting political and funding challenges and could be many years away from breaking ground.

Contact Tom Lochner at 510-262-2760 or tlochner@bayareanewsgroup.com. Follow him at twitter.com/tomlochner.

if you go
What: Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors
Where: County Administration Building, 651 Pine St., Room 107, Martinez
When: 1:30 p.m. Tuesday

if you go
What: Richmond City Council
Where: 440 Civic Center Plaza, Richmond
When: 6:30 p.m. Tuesday