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S.F. Muni to Receive State Grants Toward Replacing Aging Train Control System

Muni and BART emerged as among the biggest beneficiaries of the $800 million awarded by the California State Transportation Agency last week for projects meant to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

San Francisco voters’ narrow rejection of last month’s bond dimmed the prospects of updating Muni’s aging transit control system that still runs on floppy disks, but new state grant funding will help make up some of that lost capital.

Muni and BART emerged as some of the biggest beneficiaries from the $800 million awarded by the California State Transportation Agency (CalSTA) last week for projects meant to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The competitive state grants awarded funds for local projects that, collectively, are expected to remove 4.3 million metric tons of emissions.

The $116 million in grant funds awarded to the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) will address some of the infrastructure woes that would have been addressed under the $400 million Muni bond that narrowly failed in June.

Part of the funds will go toward making reliability improvements on two Muni Metro rail lines — the K and N trains — and the 38R-Geary bus line. Notably, the grants will also fund two phases of Muni’s train control upgrade project that aims to increase the Market Street subway’s capacity by 20 percent via an automated train control system, according to SFMTA spokesperson Erica Kato.

More than $60 million in state grant funds are going toward transit-oriented development projects at East Bay BART stations. Of those funds, $49 million will fund construction at BART’s Lake Merritt, West Oakland and El Cerrito Plaza stations, where more than 2,000 housing units will be built.

The Water Emergency Transportation Authority, which operates the San Francisco Bay ferry, also received nearly $15 million to buy two electric ferries and complete a project that will connect ferry service to Treasure Island.

The funds arrive at a time when transit agencies are competing for the windfall of competitive federal grants from the infrastructure law. The money will give Muni, in particular, the capital to pursue matching grants for projects that could have been funded through the defeated bond.

This is the fifth cycle of grants awarded through the state’s Transit and Intercity Rail Capital Program stemming, in part, from state cap-and-trade proceeds. The budget signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom added $7.65 billion to that pot of state grant funds, which will be awarded in the next three years, according to CalSTA.

(c)2022 the San Francisco Chronicle. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.