Skip to main content

Current Planning Activities

Link21 is a multi-phased, long-range rail infrastructure program that will improve our Northern California transportation network for generations to come. The Program is being implemented through close coordination with agency partners, community stakeholders, and the public. Since mid-2022, we have been in the Project Identification phase, which will take us from concept development to a proposed project for Environmental Review. Development and analysis of concepts has followed a Business Case Framework that established the Link21 problem statement, goals, objectives, vision, and the evaluation criteria. Throughout development, stakeholder and public input has provided understanding of the evolving travel needs to help inform the Program. 

Identifying the Right Train System Solutions

Link21 is working to identify improvements that will provide riders with faster, more connected, equitable, affordable, and accessible options for traveling around the Megaregion. To do this, we have been exploring and assessing improvements with two types of train technology in the Transbay crossing: standard-gauge (Regional Rail) and broad-gauge (BART). Along with a new crossing, Link21 is assessing new and existing station improvements, enhanced service and the supporting infrastructure to accommodate the desired service. Assessment considers the Megaregion’s projected population, changing workforce needs, travel patterns, air quality and climate change impacts, and more.

This early work is critical in identifying the right project for Link21 that will build upon the significant rail investment being made throughout the Megaregion. A second train crossing of the Bay will amplify benefits to riders and communities creating a more integrated network that offers riders reliable travel options to reach their desired destination.

Current planning activities include:

  • Service planning to identify improvements that address the travel needs expressed by Megaregional stakeholders
  • Evaluation and refinement of crossing concepts that include options for new or improved connections on either side of the Bay
  • Analysis of the benefits and trade-offs of a new standard-gauge (Regional Rail) or second broad-gauge (BART) crossing
  • Collection of early environmental data that identifies community constraints and opportunities to guide exploration
  • Ridership modeling and cost estimating
  • Governance and funding exploration

Link21 Nearing a Program Milestone

After much work and stakeholder engagement, the Link21 Program is moving toward identification of the train technology — standard-gauge (Regional Rail) or broad-gauge (BART) — for the crossing. BART operates as a closed system on broad-gauge tracks that can only be accessed by BART trains, while Regional Rail operates on standard-gauge tracks that are used by all trains running on the national railroad network. Each offers benefits and trade-offs, and have implications for the type of service and trips a future Link21 project could enable for riders. 

Identifying which train-technology to advance forward for more planning is an important step toward defining a project that fulfills a long-range vision for rail planning and greenhouse gas reduction in the Megaregion. Link21, along with partner agencies including the State of California, are collaboratively working to improve travel options, spur economic vitality and livability, and protect our health and environment for residents of the evolving Megaregion. 

To learn more about the preliminary project exploration process, please visit the Concepts page.

Ongoing Equitable Engagement

The Link21 Team is working directly and proactively with communities through a variety of ongoing engagement and outreach activities. In addition, we are connecting with Megaregional communities at key milestones in the technical work, where timely input is critical to decision-making. These activities include:

  • Targeted activities with agency partners, elected officials, youth, tribal, and priority population communities
  • Active partnerships with community-based organizations to co-create activities with their communities.
  • Regular workshops with the Link21 Equity Advisory Council
  • In-person and virtual events such as community and train-station tabling, briefings, and presentations
Early Environmental Activities

Link21 is planning ahead to make sure all future projects support and comply with state and federal environmental requirements. Initial environmental activities include data collection to identify environmental constraints and opportunities that are helping to guide the refinement of concepts. Assessment is also focused on understanding potential Environmental Justice* effects and benefits.

*Environmental Justice is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income, with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies. 

Planning Work

Planning work includes close coordination with agency partners to share and collaborate on concepts that will best serve future travel needs. Activities include:

What's Next:

Choosing a specific technology for the crossing has some implications to the Link21 passenger experience, and how we will connect to and improve service within the larger train system. Moving forward, the Link21 Program will focus planning on identifying a Project that can then be ready to advance into Environmental Review, which is part of the Project Selection Phase. To do this, we will continue working closely with agency and community stakeholders to discuss and assess concept options such as new station locations and access, existing station improvements, land use opportunities around stations, and track alignment.

Stay engaged with Link21 to shape our Northern California future connected train network making travel by train the option of choice and a better, more equitable experience.