BART denied $70M in stimulus funds for airport connector 

The Federal Transit Administration today denied BART $70 million in federal stimulus money to fund its proposed elevated rail connector between the Coliseum station and Oakland International Airport.

The FTA's decision comes after three advocate groups filed a complaint alleging that BART failed to evaluate whether the project would provide low-income and minority communities with a fair share of the project's benefits.

The FTA found there were significant equity concerns with the project, which is estimated to cost riders up to $6 each way, and agreed with advocates that the plan violated Title VI of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964. BART then went to work on a civil rights action plan to address the concerns.

However, the FTA rejected BART's action plan in today's letter, saying there was no way BART could comply with civil rights laws by the deadline of September 30.

FTA Administrator Peter Rogoff wrote in the letter that the agency was concerned that moving forward with the project would tie it up in litigation for too long.

All federal funds that are not distributed by September 30 must be returned to the Treasury, so the $70 million will be diverted to other Bay Area projects in order to keep the money in the region.

The Metropolitan Transportation Commission, which coordinates transportation for the nine-county Bay Area, is expected to re-direct the stimulus funds to rehabilitation and preventive maintenance projects for various transit agencies.

Wynn Hausser, spokesman for Public Advocates, the San Francisco-based nonprofit law firm and advocacy group representing the groups that opposed the connector, said tonight, "We're really pleased with this outcome. We really applaud FTA for taking this seriously and sending a clear message that you can't cut corners on civil rights.''

However, Oakland and BART officials today expressed frustration with the FTA's decision to deny funding for the connector project.

BART General Manager Dorothy Dugger said in a statement, "BART's commitment to Title VI and Civil Rights is strong and abiding and we are fully committed to completing and correcting any deficiencies in our program. The action plan we submitted to FTA makes that clear."

Dugger, who said BART is committed to completing a final plan that the FTA would approve, argued, "Longtime opponents of this project are using the Civil Rights Act to stop the Oakland Airport Connector project and the thousands of jobs it will bring to this region, many of which would be held by minority workers. Access to jobs is also a civil rights issue.''

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