East Bay News

BART plans to reach the Oakland Airport

Thursday, May 14, 2009

After 30 years of studies and debate, the BART connector to the Oakland Airport will become reality. The BART board voted seven-to-one in favor of the project Thursday, despite vocal opposition.

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The curbside AirBART bus is the current connection between the Coliseum BART Station and the Oakland Airport. However, in four years, a new station should replace that curbside bus stop. The ride to the airport will be on an elevated rail system, much like the people mover at SFO.

The $522 million cost will require a federal loan, for as much as $150 million. Regardless, that depends on the bids, and BART expects them to come in lower than anticipated, since contractors are starving for work.

It now costs $3 for the one-way trip. A new fare of $6 will help re-pay the debt. Rocky Bacchus travels here routinely on business.

"Most of the time I would probably spend the extra money to go faster like when I fly into San Francisco because the convenience would be more than worth it," says Bacchus.

Charles Parker's not so sure.

"I think I would stay with that $3. It's not a very long trip, $3 is quite a bit," says Parker.

The BART board says it will be cleaner, more reliable, faster, and generate desperately needed jobs. The project will get $70 million of federal stimulus money.

Labor union official Barry Luboviski says 40,000 Bay Area workers he represents support the project.

"This is a project that's gone through engineering and can hit the ground running and put people to work," says Luboviski from the Trades Council of Alameda.

BART says 13,000 jobs will be created or supported, and $1.2 billion in economic activity generated. Still, the labor unions representing BART workers opposed the plan. They're afraid the vote that new debt will mean layoffs and higher fares.

"It seems incredible to us that you're considering whether to take on $150 million in new debt to fund this irresponsible and unaffordable project," says Jesse Hunt from Amalgamated Transit Union.

BART expects service to begin in 2013.

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