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Transbay BART Won't Resume until Late Afternoon

Fire originated in West Oakland construction site and jumped the elevated train tracks; 'suspicious people' reported in the area.

BART service between the East Bay and San Francisco will resume later than originally estimated this afternoon, Assistant General Manager Paul Oversier told the transit agency's board shortly after 12:30 p.m. today.

The Transbay Tube closed down because of a three-alarm fire that originated at a construction site near the West Oakland station in the early morning hours.

BART had initially planned to begin single-tracking trains between San Francisco and Oakland early this afternoon and then reopen both tracks for the evening commute.

However, "We've changed our game plan because there's a greater likelihood of having both tracks ready for the evening commute if both remain shut down for now, because single-tracking the trains interferes with the repair work," Oversier said. "Our goal is still to be open for the evening commute."

The agency now hopes to resume its transbay service by 4 p.m. Oversier warned, however, that once transbay service starts up again, BART still won't be able to operate at its normal level. He said he hopes to see it operate at 60 to 80 percent of capacity.

"The biggest vulnerability is that one communication cable is pretty well fried," Oversier said.

The extent of the problem will not be clear until the transit agency restarts its electrical system at the West Oakland station and runs some tests, he said.

The fire was reported at 2:18 a.m. at a construction site at Fifth Street and Mandela Parkway, adjacent to the BART station. The blaze spread, charring lampposts, cars and powers poles, and reaching the elevated BART tracks, prompting the shutdown of BART service through the area.

Oakland fire Battalion Chief Lisa Baker said "suspicious people" had been reported in the area around the time the fire started. Investigators are asking anyone with information on the blaze to call (510) 238-4031.

The fire charred the area around the construction site, and the site itself was a mass of charred debris and twisted metal. The blaze damaged power poles and lines, knocking out electricity to nine PG&E customers in the area, utility spokesman J.D. Guidi said. A gas riser at Fifth and Kirkham streets caught fire during the blaze, and crews were digging into the street this morning to access the underground supply line and pinch off the gas flow. The leak was stopped shortly after 8 a.m.

-- Bay City News Service

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