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Commission votes in favor of Oakland Airport Connector

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The commission for the Bay Area's transportation planning, coordinating and financing agency voted 11 to 5 to keep $70 million in Stimulus funds with the Oakland Airport Connector Project. However, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission will revisit the issue at a special February 17 meeting.

At its Jan. 27 meeting,
BART officials assured MTC commissioners they are confident BART will
successfully meet the remaining compliance issues the Federal Transportation
Administration outlined in a January 15 letter. Those compliance issues deal
with Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which, in part, governs how transit
agencies reach out to low-income, minority and limited English proficiency
communities when making service and fare changes.

"We think the OAC is one of
the best regional projects for the Bay Area," BART Board President James Fang
said at the commission meeting. "This project will not only create jobs, it
will also create stability in Oakland. I am fully confident we will meet the
schedule that MTC has put together and we’re going to work very hard with FTA
to get this thing done."

"According to our records,
we have had no prior Title VI findings or deficiencies in any of the triennial
audits conducted by the FTA of our activities over the past decade," BART
General Manager Dorothy Dugger said. "This audit did, however, raise
deficiencies and we are now addressing them. We have been engaged actively with
FTA headquarters staff over the seven working days since we received the
Administrator’s letter. The schedule that the MTC staff is recommending is
aggressive for all parties. We are committing the time and the resources to
meet our schedule. We plan to submit a draft plan to FTA this week."

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. It will also leave a
legacy transit connection that will carry thousands of daily riders to the
Oakland regional airport, on time and 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
help drive the East Bay’s future economic growth.

On January 20, BART
officials held a news conference to respond to the FTA’s Title VI letter and
announced their commitment to meet FTA requirements. A broad coalition of
advocates joined BART officials to voice their support of the project.

Over the past decade, BART
has worked with the FTA to meet all its requirements and as a result, the FTA
has approved numerous actions to move this project forward. 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.

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

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