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Thursday, January 21, 2010

Oakland Airport Connector project advocates vow to work with FTA

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BART has received the Federal Transit Administration's letter asking for further analysis of the Oakland Airport Connector project's impact on minority communities under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Over the past decade, BART has diligently worked with the FTA to meet all its requirements and as a result, the FTA has consistently signed off on every aspect of the Oakland Airport Connector (OAC). In fact, as recently as December, the FTA informed BART it had approved the project for what's called "pre-award authority" to continue advancing the project. It also invited BART to complete the steps to secure award of $25 million in federal New Starts funding and award of $70 million in Stimulus funds. At the time, there was no mention that additional documentation was needed.

Based on the FTA's consistent support, the BART Board voted to authorize the award of contracts. However, the FTA's 11th-hour requirement for further Title VI analysis places additional hurdles prior the award of Stimulus funds. BART has provided the FTA with overwhelming documentation that clearly shows BART has always been and will continue to be committed to providing non-discriminatory, equitable, accessible and safe public transportation to all Bay Area residents, the agency states. In fact, BART has held 25 public outreach meetings, many of which focused exclusively on the minority communities. BART is confident that it is on solid legal footing. That said, BART is also firmly committed to working with the FTA once the agency provides an exact course of action. BART is certain it resolve the newly-raised issues to the agency's satisfaction, just as we've consistently done in the past.

BART points out that the OAC project does exactly what Congress asked of Stimulus funded projects and that is it will create between 2,500 and 5,200 jobs 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. It will also leave a legacy transit connection that will carry thousands of additional daily riders to the Oakland regional airport, on time, without pollution and traffic congestion. Finally, the project will significantly enhances 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 drive the East Bay's future economic growth.

That is why the OAC project has the strong support of the local business organizations, trade unions and community and citizen groups for the Bay Area. Furthermore, the MTC, the BART Board of Directors, the Oakland City Council and the Port of Oakland Board of Commissioners have consistently voted in support of the project. All are comprised of or appointed by local elected officials who seek out and represent the interests of the residents and diverse communities of the region. BART looks forward to the FTA quickly clarifying exactly what information it needs so it can promptly take the additional action required to ensure this project delivers on the commitment the President, Congress and the Bay Area Congressional delegation have made to quickly put people back to work and return the region to economic prosperity.

In another story, starting at 7:00 a.m. on Sunday, January 24, 2010, BART crews will be working to replace a transformer at San Bruno Station. During the work, the east plaza entrance to the station will be closed. In addition, the drop-off/pick-up area adjacent to Huntington Avenue will be blocked for the day.

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