The BART Board of Directors last week reaffirmed its commitment to building the proposed $484-million Oakland Airport Connector, a train-to-plane connection between the Coliseum BART Station and the Oakland Airport, even though the federal government in February withdrew $70 million in stimulus funds.

BART Board Approves New Oakland Airport Connector Funding Plan
BART Board Approves New Oakland Airport Connector Funding Plan

Last Wednesday, BART�s general manager received a letter from the Federal Transit Administration commending the agency for its efforts to address Title VI of the Civil Rights Act requirements. The withdrawal of funds postponed award of the contracts that were intended to take place at the end of 2009. BART says it worked vigorously to comply with Title VI to determine how the project and major service changes may affect low-income, limited English speaking and minority riders. An FTA-approved Title VI Corrective Action Plan was implemented. As part of the plan, a Fare and Service Equity Analysis was created, accompanied by an explanatory note. BART has held more than 40 meetings around the San Francisco Bay Area and within the vicinity of the proposed connector alignment to inform the public and obtain feedback regarding BART service and transit equity.

In June, BART staff issued a report called the Oakland Airport Connector Public Participation Summary along with an appendix. The report contains the results of the outreach the agency did as part of its work to gather input from low-income, minority and limited English speaking communities as part of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

The FTA commended BART �for not only meeting the deliverables contained in the action plan but exceeding them.� The letter stated, �They are effectively creating substantial organizational change that will pay off in the long run.�

�We want to thank the FTA for its guidance through this process,� says BART General Manager Dorothy Dugger. �The next step is to secure approval of $24.99 million from FTA and approval of $20 million in state funds, which is scheduled for the Aug. 12 California Transportation Commission meeting. Those are the two remaining steps needed to award the contract to deliver this long-awaited transit project and much needed jobs.�

BART board member Carole Ward Allen says the project-labor agreement that accompanies the project specifically states 25% of the work will go to Oakland residents.

Firms previously contracted for the 3.2-mi automated people mover project were Flatiron/Parsons Joint Venture as general contractor and Doppelmayr Cable Car, Inc., which will operate and maintain the connector once built. Both firms were originally awarded the contracts in December 2009.

In order to replace the $70 million, the board approved the new funding package in a vote of 8 to 1. The plan now consists of $8 million in project cost reductions and $62 million in funding from a variety of sources including state transportation funds, the BART SFO Reserve Account, the High Speed Passenger Train Bond and borrowing additional funds from the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act, a low interest federal loan.

�The Oakland Airport Connector will not just create thousands of jobs, it will play a vital role in relieving traffic congestion and cleaning our air,� says Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

BART says Governor Schwarzenegger was instrumental in providing $20 million in state funds for OAC. �Today's action is integral to jump-starting this design-build project and getting shovels in the ground as quickly as possible,� the governor says. �This is exactly the type of project I was envisioning when I championed Proposition 1B in 2006, because it is helping provide residents a reliable, carbon-free and direct connection between regional transit and the region�s second largest airport.�

According to BART, the project is expected to create between 2,500 and 5,000 direct and indirect jobs during the three-and-a half-year construction phase, which could begin late this year.