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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Oakland Airport Connector Lives to Be Controversial For Another Day

Posted By on Wed, Jan 27, 2010 at 1:59 PM

click to enlarge monorail.gif
The regional Metropolitan Transportation Commission moments ago voted to stay the course, applying $70 million in endangered federal funds not to the Bay Area's moribund transit agencies but a controversial, half-billion dollar proposed BART extension to Oakland Airport.

"Closer than I thought, but we ... still lose," said MTC commissioner Chris Daly of the 11-5 vote.

The federal funding became an issue earlier this month when Peter Rogoff, the director of the Federal Transportation Administration, wrote a sternly worded letter to both BART and the MTC. In it, he ruled BART had blown off a required "equity evaluation" of how the proposed Oakland Airport Connector will impact the poor, minority communities residing nearby. In Rogoff's words, to continue pushing for the $70 million in federal stimulus funds to be used for the connector -- and not local transit agencies -- presented a "considerable risk" of losing the money outright.

Civil rights activists' complaints that it is immoral to fund a prohibitively expensive conveyance for airline passengers that does nothing for neighborhood dwellers dependent on a withering public transit system dove-tail with transit activists' charges the connector is an ill-conceived, costly debacle.

The Federal Transportation Administration has given BART until March 5

to address concerns regarding the "equity evaluation." At today's MTC

meeting, according to Daly, the commissioners required BART to submit

an "action plan" regarding the Feds' concerns by Feb. 16; the MTC will

meet again shortly thereafter to assess BART's progress. Should BART

fail to submit the plan, or if the MTC is unsatisfied with the

submission, the $70 million in stimulus funding may be distributed to

starving local transit agencies such as BART, Muni, and AC Transit. 

Along with Daly, Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates, Anne Halsted, Sue Lempert, and Jake Mackenzie voted, unsuccessfully, to distribute the $70 million to local agencies immediately. 

"It was pretty obvious that my perspective was not going to win," said Halsted after the vote. She, however, predicted this money would eventually go to the transit agencies, and not the airport connector. "It doesn't look to me like MTC and BART will get their act together to stem the tide. And I am really not willing to lose that money."

In other news, yes you'll be paying six bucks to cross the Bay Bridge, too.

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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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