BART airport connector funds veer off track 

Whether $70 million in federal funding will be steered toward an Oakland airport BART connector or to other transit agencies will be decided Wednesday.

The money was originally intended for BART’s Oakland International Airport connector, but a key decision by the Federal Transit Administration could lead to the money going elsewhere.

In December, BART approved the project that would link the Oakland Coliseum station and the Oakland airport. The federal agency reviewed its stimulus allocation in early January and determined that the East Bay project violated a federal civil rights law.

BART has until March 5 to address the federal government’s concern — which came about because the transit agency failed to undertake a minority equity study on its proposed fare and service changes — or the $70 million for the region could be revoked.

Wednesday, however, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission — the regional body in charge of distributing federal funding — will vote on whether to support the $70 million for the BART project.

The commission also could abandon the project and go with a contingency plan that would disperse the money to local transit agencies. Only 10 percent of the stimulus funding could go toward agencies’ operating budgets, but the rest of the money could be directed toward preventative maintenance projects.

BART officials have insisted they will be able to comply with the federal government’s demand for a robust equity study, but transit administration officials have taken a stern stance on the matter.

In a letter written to both the MTC and BART, Administrator Peter Rogoff stressed that if BART did not meet the demands of the federal government, the Bay Area’s funding would be pulled and it would not go to any other regional agencies.

Several national civil rights groups and local transportation advocacy organizations held a press conference Tuesday to urge the MTC to use the $70 million to help Bay Area transit agencies, many of which are reducing service, increasing fares and laying off staff to deal with budget shortfalls.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which oversees Muni and is facing a $16.9 million midyear budget deficit, is requesting
$17.5 million in the stimulus funds, should the airport connector project fall through. SFMTA spokesman Judson True said the agency is determining how much funding from the $17.5 million could be directed toward plugging its current budget hole.

The $440 million Oakland airport connector project is designed to extend BART service 3.2 miles from the Oakland Coliseum station to Oakland International Airport. BART officials said it will create 2,500 to 5,200 jobs in the manufacturing and construction industries.


Faster connection

BART has proposed building a transportation system between the Oakland airport and the Coliseum BART station.

•Would connect the Coliseum BART station to Oakland International Airport with automated aboveground “people-mover” system

•Trains would leave every four to five minutes from Coliseum station

•Projected trip time, from stepping off BART train to walking into airport terminal, is expected to be 12 to 15 minutes; the current AirBart system, a bus that travels on city streets, takes between 20 and 24 minutes

•Fares could range from $3 to $6; current fares on AirBart are $3

Source: BART

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Will Reisman

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