BART: Bringing Rapid Transit to the Bay Area

April 20, 2016

In the early sixties the Bay Area Rapid Transit District asked a Bechtel joint venture to design and build a radically new rapid-transit system. This system would allow riders to leave their cars at home while cutting down on traffic, reducing air pollution and promoting commerce and recreation. 

The plans were approved in 1962 and the joint venture started this unique project, which would set new standards for similar systems.

Construction on BART officially began on June 19th, 1964, and on the Oakland Subway in 1966.

Construction reached its peak in 1969, with a force of 5,000 contractors working on the subway and other parts of the system. The project team overcame extremely difficult conditions, including designing and building tunnels and stations below Market Street in downtown San Francisco in extremely wet and muddy conditions. 

Experts on the project also dealt with a high water table, seismic considerations and a tangle of underground utilities while working on the project. Excavations were also rich with buried ships and other maritime memorabilia, providing a window into the nineteenth century when San Francisco's now land-filled lower Market Street and the Embarcadero were still open harbor. 

A major accomplishment in civil engineering was the completion of the transbay tube structure in 1969. The 3.6-mile underwater passage was constructed in 57 sections and lays on the bay floor as deep as 135 feet beneath the surface. Before it was closed to visitors for installation thousands of Bay area residents walked, jogged or bicycled through the tube. 

The final tunnel "hole through" occurred at the west end of Montgomery Street on January 27th, 1971.

In the decades since its debut, BART has transformed the daily lives of Bay Area residents. Bechtel has continued its role with BART as the general engineering consultant on an extension program in four different counties, and later served as general engineering consultant for a seismic retrofit program.

Today the system sees an average of 423,120 weekday passengers and 126 million annual passengers.

Gif footage courtesy of

Tags: rail, tunnel


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