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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

BART Oakland Airport Connector Gets More Expensive

Posted By on Wed, Jan 12, 2011 at 11:45 AM

click to enlarge Pretty -- and pretty costly
  • Pretty -- and pretty costly

A controller's memo sent to BART officials yesterday warned that constructing the controversial $484 million Oakland Airport Connector will drain millions more away from the system's general fund than previously believed.

BART's failure to secure a $105 million Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) loan last year will not go unnoticed when -- or, rather if -- shovels hit the ground to construct the monorail-like project.

Per BART's controller-treasurer, sans the federal loan, yearly financing costs will jump from $8 million to $11 million and the anticipated hit to the general fund would swell from $29 million to $46 million.

The connector, criticized by opponents as a redundant, expensive, and wasteful project, has over the past decade, seen its projected price tag quadruple and its anticipated

ridership dropped by two-thirds. When $70 million in federal funds was yanked from the connector last year, transit advocates celebrated.

BART technically doesn't need the TIFIA loan for two years, and can re-apply for it. But it's a longshot to expect it'll get one down the road after being rejected in November.

Minus the TIFIA loan, BART had considered funding the project using federal Build America Bonds -- but the recent extension of the Bush tax cuts nixed that program. That leaves BART with sales tax bonds -- which it would have to pay back at a 4.6 percent rate instead of 3.75 percent.

BART board president Bob Franklin voted for the connector project -- but noted he did so on the stipulation the Port of Oakland pony up some $44 million. That hasn't come yet, nor has $5.4 million from the High-Speed Rail Authority. "There are still a lot of sources of money that aren't secure," he says.

Tom Radulovich, San Francisco's member of the BART board, has been the most adamant opponent of the connector -- and the only consistent dissenting vote on the project. As he has before, he painted it as a wasteful diversion of BART's limited funds.

He notes that BART has shunted money from seismically upgrading stations so they'll be usable after a major quake into the Oakland Airport Connector -- meaning "You'd still have the Oakland Airport Connector after an earthquake, but you wouldn't have it connected to a working BART station."

Discussion of the connector is scheduled for tomorrow's BART board meeting. The controller's memo, incidentally, was requested by new board member Robert Raburn -- who was elected on an anti-airport connector platform. 

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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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