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Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Oakland Airport Connector Project Wins Funding

Posted By on Wed, Sep 8, 2010 at 2:20 PM

click to enlarge Here it comes, whether you like it or not... - BART
  • BART
  • Here it comes, whether you like it or not...
The Oakland Airport Connector project is not unlike a zombie -- it's terrible and it stinks, but you just can't kill it.

The Metropolitan Transportation Commission today approved applying $20 million in state funds toward the projected $484 million project. In order to make up for $70 million yanked from the connector by the Feds earlier this year, BART plans to take out loans and apply its reserve funds -- meaning, yes, the overall system will be tapped to pay for this boondoggle-to-be.

There are a number of reasons why the connector is a terrible project, but we'll limit it to these:

To start with, during the lengthy gestation of the project, its projected cost has quadrupled, while its anticipated ridership has precipitously dropped by two-thirds. The design currently being pushed actually drops passengers off further from the airport than the current Air Bart buses, and calls for a complex, multiple-wire cable car system that has never before been engineered. Finally, the notion of creating dedicated bus lanes and rolling passengers to the airport in plain ol' buses doesn't seem to have enticed transpiration authorities -- despite the fact it'd cost a fraction of the connector.

On the other hand, politicians can point to a mammoth cable system and say "I built that." And so can local building and trade unions. Period.

It's all very frustrating for BART board member Tom Radulovich. Several times the lone vote against the connector, he says his colleagues, on several occasions, commiserated with him about what a ridiculous project this is -- but voted for it anyway.

BART's current plan, Radulovich points out, is to go further into debt to finance the connector -- despite the Metropolitan Transportation Commission's own calculation that BART faces a $7 billion shortfall over the next several decades when it comes to just maintaining its existing service. The stimulus funds allocated to the connector in the name of producing jobs, Radulovich continues, could have probably put just as many or more unionized employees to work if simply directed into keeping Bay Area transit systems solvent and running.

"A lot of what they're calling 'federal funding' is just a loan. If you borrow, we can borrow for anything -- such as buying new rail cars," says Radulovich. "It's perplexing to see some of my colleagues -- and I won't name names -- saying 'Why are my stations so run down? Why are the trains so shabby?' and then voting for a boondoggle. That is the essence of willful ignorance."

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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