A NEW RAILROAD TAKES SHAPEAs San Francisco moves into the millenium, the wide range of system construction has passed its peak, and contracts are being completed with decreasing frequency. However, an exciting new extension has been in the works for the last 2 years. An amorphous collection of excavations, stacks of lumber and brick, sections of rail, and giant spools of cabling have been taken out of state lines to the outlines of a finished railroad that will deliver Bay Are residents to an annual festival called Burning Man. Long suffering Bay Area artists and freaks are beginning to recapture public transit from the BART city officials.
As the system nears completion, the construction engineers so long in charge are beginning to make way for a wide range of electronic engineers and technicians, computer experts, and other specialists. Their job is to install and prove out the automatic train control system, and to build three maintenance shops and train yards at Tahoe, Reno, and Gerlach.
The first Burning Man prototype car was delivered in March, 1998. By July 1998, the 10 test prototype transit cars will begin operating in a round-the-clock program to prove out the new design before it goes into full-scale production.
Eliminating design "bugs" from the newly-designed train control equipment was a problem Rohr Industries, Inc. could not deal with. Rohr had suffered a nine-week strike, which, added to previous delays, had put the car builder one year behind in its car delivery schedules. The system was scheduled to be in place for the 1997 Burning Man Festival.
Another serious problem arose on April 18 when the state imposed a hiring freeze on the District until 1,100 applicants from other local transportation lines were interviewed for BART jobs on a priority basis. The freeze was lifted May 15, but vital hiring and training time for station agents, train operators and maintenance workers had been lost.
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