BART Oakland Airport Connector Gets More Expensive

AIRPORT CONNECTOR.jpg
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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11 comments
insider
insider

The current AirBART bus system is possibly the US's only profitable transit system.

As far as a new transit system, PRT better meets stated project objectives than APM: http://www.cities21.org/OAK_OA...

Paul McGregor
Paul McGregor

The biggest problem I've had with this project is why BART is so determined to use their own funds to pay for this project. The Port of Oakland should be putting up a hell of a lot more money than they are currently being asked to put up. If that money is not forthcoming then the project should die. Look at AirTrain JFK as an example of how it should be done.

As far as the AirBART service goes, I would hope they would know what their peak hours of ridership are so they can plug in additional buses to serve the demand. They could also use articulated buses as well but who knows, maybe that would require an increase in the fare which is already high enough now. The luggage racks take out a lot of space and does lead to crowded trips which using articulated buses could address.

thielges
thielges

I agree with MrEricSir and you only need to look as far as the Millbrae to SFO BART connection for a comparison. The former free shuttle bus was faster, more convenient, and of course much cheaper. The current situation is a mess and I no longer take transit to SFO because it is so inconvenient.

Rojo2g
Rojo2g

The BART shuttle works very well. I believe a better station, with a separate drop off/pick up point for shuttle riders and perhaps a lounge for only shuttle riders to wait in. If this less expensive but better shuttle attracts lots of riders and the station/lounge becomes to small then consider a monorail. For now we need to pay as we go.

withak30
withak30

What a terrible boondoggle of a project.

Irmtraut Zoerb
Irmtraut Zoerb

This thing would work so much better if they just kept the shuttle buses but added two more per hour so that they are leaving every 10 minutes and don't get crowded

TSArina
TSArina

I agree with MrEricSir. Sure it would be more convenient, but unless the airlines are paying for this they should just stick with the bus.

MrEricSir
MrEricSir

As someone who's been to Oakland Airport on Bart, I can say that this isn't needed at all. The shuttle they have now is perfectly fine, and I'm guessing it didn't cost $500 million to buy the buses.

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