APPROVAL was granted in December for the majority of the funding needed to proceed with the eBART diesel commuter rail line in California.

On December 19 Contra Costa Transportation Authority and the Metropolitan Transit Commission separately approved a total of $479m for eBART, which is intended as a quicker and more affordable alternative to extending the BART metro into eastern Contra Costa County from its current terminus at Pittsburgh/Bay Point.

Now priced at $523m for the first 16 km, eBART will follow the median of State Route 4 to a terminus at Hillcrest Avenue in Antioch. Standard gauge and BART's 1 676 mm gauge are being considered, with the Phase I study recommending the use of standard gauge initially.

Construction could start in 2010, and revenue service using a fleet of DMUs is tentatively set for 2015. Longer-term plans include an 18 km extension to Byron.