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Walnut Creek Traction Power Substation Replacement

Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART), California

Traction power substations (TPSS) are a critical part of transportation infrastructure networks everywhere, including rail. They serve as a lifeline of power, moving trains along an intricate system of tracks integrating multiple lines.

Improving Rail Safety and Reliability

In 2017, a fire broke out at an electrical substation at the Walnut Creek BART Station, causing catastrophic damage to the DC switchgear and one of two rectifier transformers. This sent electricity surging through the substation, temporarily knocking out commuter service. BART and Contra Costa County Fire Department crews quickly responded to this emergency and successfully restored service to the line just two hours later with no reported injuries.

Following this incident — and in alignment with its commitment to improve rapid transit systems with a focus on safety, efficiency, sustainability and reliability — BART made it a priority to provide a steady and more reliable power source to the new fleet of BART trains on the impacted “C” Line. Interim measures included building a temporary and portable substation while a new system of traction power was designed, permitted and installed.

Implementing a Traction Power Substation (TPSS)

The permanent TPSS solution includes two new 5-Megawatt transformers and associated DC and AC housing, switchers and Emergency Transfer and Trip System (ETTS), fast and reliable means of de-energizing the inbound and outbound 100 V DC contact rail system in cases of faults or emergency to prevent further damage or hazards. This ensures the safety and reliability of the overall power distribution system. The inclusion of a new ETTS is part of the broader strategy to enhance the reliability and resilience of the traction power system for BART trains.

Project challenges include short work windows (2-hour shifts during the week and 5-to-7-hour shifts on weekends), complicated by a live power environment, installation of the 5-Megawatt transformers under an active BART station and potential inclement weather. Field construction is scheduled to start March 2024, with future work including the coordination of the demolition of the existing portable transformer and foundation.

Construction Management Solutions

TRC began providing construction management services for BART’s Walnut Creek Traction Power Substation Project in October 2023. TRC is providing the Resident Engineer (Electrical Engineer), who also serves as the Subject Matter Expert and routinely interacts with numerous outside agencies and internal departments. Our Resident Engineer/Electrical Inspector manages compliance with electrical codes, specifications and project requirements, while overseeing the installation, testing and acceptance of the scope for efficient delivery of a safe and functioning critical power asset for BART.

TRC is proudly teaming with MLee, a DBE subconsultant, for scheduling support services on this project. The entire construction management team provides comprehensive management of project timelines, including the identification and resolution of schedule-related issues, claims estimates and the preparation of time impact evaluations, all directed towards maintaining project efficiency and adherence to contractual obligations.

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