LIVERMORE -- BART has begun its yearlong mandatory analysis of the various ways it could extend service into Livermore, with options ranging from relatively inexpensive feeder buses to a costly full rail extension.
Adding express bus lines between Livermore and the Dublin-Pleasanton BART station would cost roughly $55 million.
A five-mile BART extension along Interstate 580 to Isabel Avenue would come with a $1.2 billion price tag, while constructing an 11½-mile line all the way to Greenville Road would cost $3.2 billion, according to preliminary estimates.
Substituting a traditional BART line to Greenville Road with a modified system using diesel battery-operated trains similar to the eBART system under construction in East Contra Costa County would drop the cost to $2 billion. With eBART, passengers would be required to transfer to or from a traditional BART train.
An environmental impact study is required under federal and state law before BART chooses an option, which is scheduled for early 2015.
But the pending debate over whether BART will go with buses, an eBART system or "real" BART is only one sticking point.
During an informational hearing before BART's elected nine-member board last week, several directors pushed staff to add to the options a downtown Livermore alignment and station.
In 2011, the Livermore City Council -- in response to a petition with more than 8,000 signatures -- rejected the downtown option and chose an Interstate 580 alignment and stations at Isabel Avenue and Greenville Road.
Residents feared a downtown line would irreparably damage the city's historic character, and an underground tunnel would cost billions. Further, they wanted an intermodal link with the Altamont Corridor Express train.
But BART President Tom Radulovich, of San Francisco, urged staff to study the downtown alignment anyway.
"I understand Livermore's preference, but I would love to have the opportunity to try and talk them out of (the freeway alignment,)" Radulovich said.
Director John McPartland, of Castro Valley, whose district includes Livermore, agreed the "downtown station option must be vetted. We need to have the dialogue."
Don't bother, countered Livermore Mayor John Marchand on Friday.
"Eighty percent of my community wants BART on the freeway," Marchand said. "Putting BART downtown is not an option. The city will not approve it. And I'm concerned that if BART continues to put this option out into the public, they may very well jeopardize our countywide sales tax measure."
Alameda County is expected to make a second run at a transportation sales tax measure in the November 2014 election, which would include $400 million toward extending BART to Livermore at the Isabel Avenue exit on Interstate 580.
Which option and alignment will ultimately prevail is an open question. At this stage, BART directors are all over the map about which path makes the most sense.
McPartland and Director Tom Blalock, of Fremont, prefer what they call "one seat, one ride," or the full BART option. Director Zakhary Mallett, of El Sobrante, also expressed skepticism about alternative technologies such as diesel units that would force commuters to transfer.
Director Robert Raburn, of Oakland, advocated for express buses, while Director Rebecca Saltzman, also of Oakland, favored studying a combination of express buses and adding parking spaces at the Dublin-Pleasanton station.
The final choice will come down to money, said Director Gail Murray, of Walnut Creek. The Alameda County Transportation Authority lists $217 million in available funding, a figure far short of what most of the options would cost, except buses.
"I'm in favor of one seat, one ride, too, but what is affordable?" Murray said. "Do you want 'real' BART after you are dead, or do you want a connection now?"
In the next year, BART staff and consultants will put together conceptual engineering plans and ridership forecasts for each of the options.
The draft environmental impact report is scheduled for release and public review in late 2014.
Contact Lisa Vorderbrueggen at 925-945-4773. Follow her at Twitter.com/lvorderbrueggen.
Options for linking Livermore to BART's Dublin-Pleasanton station that will be studied as part of the environmental analysis include:
$55 million -- Enhanced bus feeder service.
$240 million -- Express buses with direct transfers at the BART platform.
$2 billion -- Diesel train system similar to eBART in East Contra Costa County from Greenville Road to the Dublin-Pleasanton station.
$1.2 billion -- Full BART five-mile extension from the Isabel Avenue exit along Interstate 580.
$3.2 billion -- Full BART 11 -mile extension to Greenville Road with a station at Isabel Avenue.