Plans for Hercules' long-awaited transit center for buses, trains and ferries got another boost Wednesday with a $4.5 million appropriation from Contra Costa transportation officials.

The award consists of $2,162,000 to acquire right of way for a train station from a developer, and $2,356,000 to extend John Muir Parkway, a critical roadway to access the station.

The intermodal transit center is supposed to include a bus transfer area, an Amtrak Capitol Corridor train station and a future ferry terminal connecting Hercules with San Francisco.

Wednesday's vote by the Contra Costa Transportation Authority board was unanimous; alternate board member William Wilkins, a Hercules councilman, recused himself.

Before the funds for the right-of-way acquisition can be disbursed, a deed specifying the property's use as a train station must be recorded. If it is not so used, Hercules must sell it, with the proceeds reverting to the Transportation Authority.

The funds allocated Wednesday will come from the Measure J half-cent sales tax approved by voters in 2004 for transportation-related projects.

The long-stalled transit center has notched a series of wins of late, including City Council approval of development agreements and a purchase-and-sale agreement for the right of way and other property with Hercules Bayfront LLC, which wants to develop a transit village adjacent to the center.

Transportation Authority board members praised Hercules' project as important to regional transportation needs and as a way to get traffic off freeways. Several also spoke admiringly of Hercules residents' commitment to the project, as indicated by the presence of about 30 supporters, including residents and local officials.

Before the vote, Steve Duran, the city manager, in a nod to lingering questions about Hercules' finances, noted that the city had come to terms with a bond insurer over the deposit of redevelopment tax increments into a city fund to avoid possible bankruptcy.

With the settlement earlier this month, "the B-word is in our rearview mirror," Duran said.

William Silva, the consultant, said the project's federal environmental review will be completed by the end of next week. Officials have said it needs to be completed by the end of the month so that the city can hold on to $9.1 million in state transportation funds.

Board member Bob Taylor, who also is Brentwood's mayor, said the San Francisco Bay Area Water Emergency Transportation Authority recently estimated that a ferry terminal on Hercules' mud-bound shoreline would require $20 million of initial dredging plus $3 million to $5 million of maintenance dredging every two years. A June 2011 WETA staff report had pegged the cost at $17 million initially, plus $3 million every two or three years. Silva responded that the trains and buses as well as Bay Trail improvements are independent of the ferry component, and that hovercraft, which can navigate on shallow water and beaches, are being studied as alternatives to ferryboats.

By the numbers
$4.5 million
The amount the Contra Costa transportation board appropriated for a Hercules transit center
$2.162 million
The amount allocated to acquire right of way for the station from a developer
$2.356 million
The amount allocated to extend John Muir Parkway to access the station