BART approves plan to pay for airport connector

July 22, 2010 4:42:35 PM PDT
BART directors today approved spending more of the transit agency's own money to finance the Oakland Airport Connector project after federal stimulus funds were taken away earlier this year following a civil rights complaint.

The idea of an Oakland Airport connector linking BART's Coliseum Station and the parking lot of Oakland International Airport seems headed for approval, but it does not have Richmond resident Tony Sustak's approval. Like the other protestors outside the BART meeting, he says there's lots of better things to do with the nearly half a billion dollars earmarked for the connection.

"BART has failed to carry out its promises to people who live in Alameda and Contra Costa counties by building the stations out to the east, and at the same time they have failed to do the earthquake retrofit on their existing infrastructure," said Sustak.

Members of a carpenters union were also outside the meeting.

"It infuses a lot of cash into the local economy. These folks will go to work. They will spend that money in local businesses. So it boosts the region's economy," said Paul Cohen of the Northern California Carpenters Council.

The project seemed in trouble in February, when the federal government pulled $70 million worth of funding because BART violated civil rights laws by ignoring the project's impact on low income communities. A BART spokesman says that issue no longer exists.

"The FTA said they have been adequately addressed. They are the ones who initially pulled the funding so I think if they are comfortable with it, we are comfortable with it," said Chief BART spokesman Linton Johnson.

But the federal money has gone elsewhere, so BART has come up with alternative funding from a variety of sources including state transportation and bond money and a loan from the federal government.

The virtually non-polluting connector would be a driverless system that would make the trip from the Coliseum BART station to the airport in eight minutes.

Bay City News contributed to this story


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