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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

BART statement on FTA letter on Oakland Connector

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BART has received FTA Administrator Peter Rogoff's letter stating that the FTA has rejected BART's plan to meet the FTA's standards of full compliance with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. This letter cites no substantive deficiencies in BART's latest draft action plan to correct Title VI deficiencies identified in a December 2009 audit. Instead, the basis of the FTA Administrator's rejection rests solely on the fact that BART's plan contains a timetable with an end date beyond September 30, 2010-the deadline for awarding stimulus fund grants.

BART's original draft action plan, which was submitted to the FTA on January 28th committed to complete all required tasks well before September 30, 2010, but following its review, FTA staff directed BART to plan for a longer timetable.

Additionally, today's letter from the Administrator referred to a September 30 funding disbursement deadline. The Federal Register (Vol. 79, No. 42) of March 5, 2009 states that ARRA funds need only to be awarded to specific project by that date. Grant recipients have five years to draw down-or spend-these federal funds.

"BART is extremely disappointed and dismayed that FTA will not use its discretion to allow stimulus funding to the Oakland Airport Connector while BART is working to remedy Title VI deficiencies," said BART General Manager Dorothy W. Dugger. "BART's commitment to Title VI and Civil Rights is strong and abiding and we are fully committed to completing and correcting any deficiencies in our program. The action plan we submitted to FTA makes that clear.

Under Title VI implementation regulations, the enforcement of Title VI relies on voluntary curing of deficiencies with the denial of funding as a final, not first, step in the process.

"Longtime opponents of this project are using the Civil Rights Act to stop the Oakland Airport Connector project and the thousands of jobs it will bring to this region, many of which would be held by minority workers. Access to jobs is also a Civil Rights issue," said Dugger. "The Oakland Airport Connector contractor has committed that 20 percent of the construction work and 33 percent of the professional services work will go to Disadvantaged Business Enterprises."

The FTA does not cite any deficiencies in BART's last action plan other than it contains a timetable with an FTA-imposed deadline of September 30, 2010. BART is fully committed to completing and executing a final plan to FTA's satisfaction.

The total cost of the project is $492 million - or $60 million less than the $552 million BART estimated in April 2009.  A competitive bidding environment led to lower than projected costs.

BART notes the OAC project does exactly what Congress asked of Stimulus funded projects - and that is it will create between 2,500 and 5,200 job opportunities for the area, which are of vital importance to the region's economic recovery. These include jobs in the construction, electrical, steel fabrication and other building trades that are experiencing unemployment rates in excess of 30 percent. The OAC will also leave a legacy transit connection that would carry thousands of daily riders to the Oakland regional airport, on time and without pollution and traffic congestion. Finally, the project is aimed to significantly enhance the airport's national prestige as one of the few in the country with a coveted world-class, transit connection, which will allow the airport to attract the businesses that will help drive the East Bay's future economic growth.