The BART Board of Directors voted 7-1 today to reaffirm its decision to authorize General Manager Dorothy Dugger to enter into a contract with the two firms the Board selected in December 2009 to design, operate and maintain the much anticipated Oakland Airport Connector. The vote is likely the final action the Board of Directors will need to take before the agency breaks ground on the historic project, which promises in the short-term to create thousands of jobs. While in the long run, provides a world-class transit connection between the Oakland Airport and BART's Coliseum Station for millions of customers for decades to come.
"It's been a long journey and anything that's worth having is worth fighting for, and I think this Board and this District really have put in a good fight," said BART Board President James Fang.
All that remains is a decision by the California Transportation Commission (CTC), which is poised to vote on allocating $20 million in funding to the project at its September 22, 2010 meeting. Should the CTC vote in favor of allocating the money to the project, BART's General Manager anticipates she will sign the contract with the two firms and the 3.5 year construction on the project will begin.
The Oakland Airport Connector, once built, will replace the AirBART buses that often are bogged down by Hegenberger Road traffic, Coliseum sporting events, freight trains and accidents, all of which create great angst for anxious air travelers rushing to make their flights.
By contrast, the connector will be a far more relaxing ride. The Automated People Movers (APMs) will offer swift, reliable world-class service because they will be all electric and run on a fixed, elevated guideway above the congestion. The APMs will arrive at the Coliseum BART Station every 4.5 minutes and will quickly transport air travelers to the airport in 8 minutes and 12 seconds with an on-time performance exceeding 99%.
The local communities have fought in support of the OAC project for years. Through extensive public outreach, the OAC project garnered voter approval and the support of the elected officials at MTC, Port of Oakland, Alameda County CMA, ACTIA and the City of Oakland. This public process has been transparent from the outset.
"This project is very important to the people of my district and the millions who use the Oakland Airport," Board Member Carole Ward Allen said. Ward Allen has worked to get this project built in her home city of Oakland for nearly two decades. "We couldn’t be building this project at a better time, because Oakland currently has one of the highest unemployment rates in the state. The project-labor agreement that accompanies this project specifically states 25% of the work will go to Oakland residents – providing many with much needed jobs. I’m also very happy the project includes goals to create opportunities for companies run by people of color and women."
The $484 million project is expected to create between 2,500 and 5,000 direct and indirect jobs during the three and a half year construction phase, which could begin as early as late 2010.
"BART is not only going to provide efficient transportation; we're going to create jobs," said Board President Fang, looking ahead to an upcoming groundbreaking. "Let the dirt fly."
Updated with Fang and Ward Allen quotes 11:57 a.m., September 21, 2010