The president of the Port of Oakland Board of Commissioners abruptly removed an agenda item proposing port funding for BART’s Oakland Airport Connector this week, only hours before commissioners were due to consider it, but a spokesperson for the port said that the action was no indication that there was any problem with commission approval of the item.
“The item was pulled [by Commission President Victor Uno] because we have a very busy schedule tonight,” port media and public relations specialist Marilyn Sandifur said by e-mail in response to a written query by the Daily Planet. “The Airport Connector will be on the agenda for the [June 16] board meeting. There is no negative impact on the project due to rescheduling.”
BART is proposing a long-planned 3.5-mile $529 million rail line connecting the Coliseum BART station with the Oakland Airport, and is requesting that the Port of Oakland, which runs the airport, contribute $44 million to complete the funding package for the project. Because some $70 million of the money is in federal stimulus funds that will be withdrawn from the project if BART does not have a construction contract signed by December, the transit agency is urging the port commission to give quick approval to the funding request.
While the port’s requested share is $44 million, interest rate costs of $26 million will push the total cost to the port for the airport connector project to $70 million. If the commission approves, port officials plan to apply for federal funds for the port’s portion of the project cost. Port officials say that, if the commission does not approve port funding of the airport connector project, those federal funds would be used for other Port of Oakland projects.
TransForm, a local transportation advocacy and planning organization, has proposed a bus rapid transit alternative to the airport connector to run along Hegenberger Road. TransForm’s RapidBART is projected to cost $45 million.
The Port of Oakland’s airport committee listened to several hours of testimony on the competing plans this week from representatives of BART, TransForm, public officials and members of the public.