BART can still score stimulus funds for airport connector 

A planned BART connector from the Oakland Coliseum station to Oakland International Airport stayed on track Wednesday, pending an effort by BART to ease civil rights concerns posed by the Federal Transit Administration.

The Metropolitan Transportation Commission, which administers regional transit funds, approved allocating $70 million in federal stimulus funds toward construction of the link.

However, the commission scheduled a special meeting Feb. 17 in case it decides to divert the funds to other transit projects in the Bay Area.

Earlier this month, the FTA said BART did not perform a minority equity study on the project’s proposed fare and resulting service changes. Failure to correct this violation by March 5 could result in the transit administration revoking the $70 million.

MTC commissioners voted 11-5 to require BART to come up with a transit administration-approved action plan to correct its violations by Feb. 16. If that doesn’t happen, the MTC will divert the $70 million to other projects so the funds do not leave the Bay Area.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which oversees Muni and is facing a $16.9 million midyear budget deficit, is requesting $17.5 million of that money should the airport connector project fall through.

There’s risk in waiting until next month because it may not allow enough time to shift the funds, MTC Executive Director Steve Heminger said. But he was confident the timing would work.

Heminger also said unforeseen problems could come up that might threaten the $70 million.

BART officials insist the connector project will be able to comply with the demand for a robust equity study. Executive Director Dorothy Dugger said BART plans on submitting a corrective plan to the federal agency as early as next week.


Bridge toll increases approved

The tolls for all major regional bridges, except the Golden Gate, will increase July 1. The Bay Area Toll Authority, which manages toll revenue from the seven state-owned Bay Area toll bridges as part of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, unanimously approved the plan.

It includes a $1 toll increase on six local bridges and a $2 increase on the Bay Bridge during peak travel times. Crossing the Bay Bridge would cost $6 during the morning and evening commutes, $5 during the weekend and $4 during off-peak weekday travel. — Mike Aldax

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