After months of debate, BART’s board of directors joined the Port of Oakland in awarding a contract for the construction of an Oakland Airport connector.
The $492 million contract was awarded to California-based Flatiron-Parsons Joint Venture.
BART issued a statement Thursday afternoon following the board's morning meeting, calling the 7-1 decision to build the 3.1-mile automated people-mover (APM) a “historic vote.”
Critics have complained that the project is too expensive to build and too expensive to ride. The initial estimate for the project was $552 million, but it is now expected to cost $60 million less, according to BART. The lowest bid was selected for the project.
“The struggling Bay Area economy just received a big boost thanks to the BART board, whose historic vote today also means BART customers will finally have a swift, world-class train-to-plane connection between the Coliseum BART Station and the Oakland Airport,” a BART statement said.
The board also voted to award the operation and maintenance contract to Doppelmayr Cable Car, Inc.
The project is expected to use $70 million in federal stimulus funds and create as many as 5,000 jobs during the three-and-a-half-year construction phase, which is scheduled to begin in mid-2010.
Project opponents argued that there were other transit operators in dire need of the funds and criticized BART for taking out a loan to fill the funding gap. BART will rely on fare revenues to back the loan.
When finished, the connector will replace the AirBART buses, which take between 12 to 30 minutes to reach the Coliseum Airport depending on traffic on Hegenberger Road. Fares will run $12 for a round trip.
AirBART, which charges $6 for a roundtrip ticket, shuttled approximately 85,000 riders per month in 2008. But BART says the buses would be inadequate to handle increased ridership over the years, which is expected to reach 10,000 passengers a day by 2020.
According to BART, the APMs, which look similar to the AirBART connectors at San Francisco International Airport, will arrive at the Coliseum BART station every 4.5 minutes and transport passengers to the airport in eight minutes and 12 seconds.
The project won the support of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, ACTIA, the Oakland City Council, and the Port of Oakland.
“This is a historic day for the Bay Area economy and BART,” Board President Thomas Blalock said in a statement. “Once completed, it will provide the East Bay with a system that will swiftly transport people between BART and the airport and cause millions of air travelers to wonder how they could have ever lived without it.”
Board member Carole Ward Allen said, “We couldn’t be building this project at a better time, because Oakland currently has one of the highest unemployment rates in the state.”
To get an idea about what the new airport connector will look like, see the BART website: www.bart.gov/news/barttv/?&cat=27&id=652.