Many residents oppose connector project

September 15, 2009 6:56:40 PM PDT
A plan to build an above-ground connector from the Oakland Coliseum BART station to the Oakland airport is catching flak. But with a potential ground breaking just months away, there may be no stopping a plan that is as controversial as it is costly.

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"This is a boondoggle of the highest proportions," said a BART connector plan opponent.

That's what opponents are calling the $500 million connector that would shuttle people from the Oakland Coliseum to the Oakland Airport at an Oakland City Hall meeting. They also had a few other choice words about the plan.

"It appears they're getting ready to build a Rolls Royce to take us to the airport," said Berkley resident Len Conly.

"I hope you consider the economic implications of wasting $70 million," said Oakland resident Karen Smulevitz.

About $70 million in stimulus money would help pay for the connector. The rest comes from government transportation agencies and bridge tolls.

Opponents say the people mover is a runaway train, and now they want the Oakland CIty Council to withdraw its support.

But even if the council formally opposes the project, there may be no stopping it.

"We are interested in understanding what they think about it, but at the end of the day they are not a signatory to the project," said BART project spokeswoman Molly McArthur.

BART and other regional transit boards have already approved the plan. It's a project decades in the making and over the years the price tag has more than quadrupled.

"BART is trying to have this conversation in a vacuum, as if we don't have a very successful air BART system already in place," said John Knox White from Transform.

Many air BART riders don't seem to mind the current shuttle system, even if it does mean occasional long waits and traffic on surface streets that the 11 minute above-ground connector promises to avoid.

"I just assume get on a bus," said Lisa Bennette from Atlanta.

But BART says this train is moving forward.

"It's shovel ready. In one week from today we're receiving proposals on this project and we are prepared to move forward with construction," said McArthur.

It's a project that may be shovel ready, but this is a debate that isn't going away anytime soon. the issue will be back for the oak city council again in just three weeks.

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