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Link21 Program Development

Planning for the Future of Passenger Rail

For decades, rail agencies have envisioned new ways to improve Northern California’s existing passenger rail system and serve our communities. Link21 is building on a number of public mandates to bring this vision to reality.

The Link21 Team is steadily developing the Program and moving it forward. Recognized as an “anchor” program in MTC’s Plan Bay Area 2050, Link21 will help unite and support communities throughout the Megaregion.

The Link21 vision involves building a new transbay passenger rail crossing that will connect more communities throughout the Megaregion. A new transbay rail crossing between Oakland and San Francisco was included in two major regional funding measures: BART Measure RR (70.5% approval in 2016) and Regional Measure 3 (55% approval in 2018). Both measures presented voters with information on the new transbay rail crossing and helped fund Link21. A new transbay passenger rail crossing is also included in the 2018 State Rail Plan.

We will evaluate how a transbay crossing and other improvements to the passenger rail network within Link21 can benefit the Northern California Megaregion. Improvements to the transbay corridor — and other rail improvement projects around the Megaregion — will provide cascading benefits by improving service throughout the rail network, even in locations that are far from those projects.

Building Blocks for Better Travel

The Link21 Program sponsors and partners want to deliver the greatest value for taxpayers’ investments. Here are the four foundational building blocks that are helping to shape the Link21 Program.

  • Markets: people and their travel patterns. The Link21 Team is identifying the most-promising travel markets around the Megaregion to target for passenger rail improvements, resulting in a more optimal passenger rail network for all.
  • Service: your experience riding passenger rail. Link21’s overarching goal is to transform the passenger experience. We can do that by improving train service and making passenger rail more connected, convenient, and accessible.
  • Train Technology: the types of trains we're going to run. In the next 15 years, passenger rail in California will be converting to zero-emission vehicles. Passenger rail operators throughout California will be running modern, fast, and environmentally-friendly trains.
  • Infrastructure: the physical improvements needed for the expansion of service and markets.

Understanding travel patterns, establishing service improvements, and deciding on optimal train technology and infrastructure will guide future planning efforts. The Link21 Team has begun defining these four building blocks, but formal decisions to shape the Program still lie ahead. Link21 will continue analyzing and adding detail to these topics in the coming years. We encourage the public to provide feedback on the Program so far. 

Program Timeline

Phase 0

Phase 1

Program Identification

Started 2022

We are here

  • Preliminary Business Case
  • Identify Program Concepts
  • Identify Program

Phase 2

Project(s) Selection

Starts 2024

  • Intermediate Business Case
  • Project Alternative(s)
  • CEQA NOD/NEPA ROD*
  • Final Business Case and Implementation Strategy

Phase 3

Project(s) Delivery

Starts 2029

  • Design
  • Construction
  • Testing and Commissioning
  • Begin Service

(One or more projects may be ready for service before 2040)


*CEQA NOD = California Environmental Quality Act Notice of Determination / NEPA ROD = National Environmental Policy Act Record of Decision

Phase 0 began in 2019. BART and Capitol Corridor have started to build a robust framework for the evaluation of program concepts and are laying the groundwork for transparent and inclusive decision-making. BART and Capitol Corridor have gathered the public's input on program Goals and Objectives and potential solutions. The Link21 Team also began defining the building blocks (markets, service, train technology, and infrastructure) that will be assembled into program concepts in Phase 1.

Phase 1 begins in 2022. Program concepts will be developed and evaluated using the Link21 Business Case framework. By the end of Phase 1, BART and Capitol Corridor, with input from partner agencies and the public, will select one program from the set of concepts defined during Phase 1. 

The selected program concept will describe multiple passenger rail improvement projects that may be implemented by BART, Capitol Corridor, or other transportation agencies over time. 

One of the key projects within the Link21 Program will be a new transbay passenger rail crossing between Oakland and San Francisco. For decades, transportation planners have identified the need for a new crossing to streamline and connect Northern California's passenger rail network and to add capacity and provide resiliency and redundancy to the existing rail service. 

Phase 2 is estimated to begin in 2024. In Phase 2, Link21 will advance and develop individual projects. BART and Capitol Corridor — with input from partner agencies and the public — will identify and prioritize project alternatives that should be taken to the design and construction phase. Other agencies or jurisdictions may take responsibility for delivering related project(s) and improvements.

Phase 2 will include a detailed environmental analysis. The public's contributions, opinions, and feedback will continue to shape and guide the project(s). 

Phase 3 is estimated to begin in 2029. Final engineering and design will be completed for the project(s). Each project will then be constructed, tested and commissioned, and made ready for service. 

All phases are dependent on available funding. BART and Capitol Corridor will continue to identify funding sources and work to secure the support and funding needed to bring the full Link21 vision to reality.