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Phil Matier: BART Oakland Airport Connector Project May Be Too Big To Fail

OAKLAND (KCBS) – Bay Area Rapid Transit’s new interim general manager says stopping the Oakland Airport Connector project could cost the transit agency tens of millions of dollars. BART board member Robert Raburn, whose district includes the area around the airport, had recently pushed to stop the connector, a planned 3.5 mile line from the Coliseum Station to the airport.

KCBS and Chronicle Insider Phil Matier Comments:

Raburn recently asked interim General Manager Sherwood Wakeman to estimate how much it would cost to kill the proposed $484 million connector. Wakeman said BART has already spent $95 million on the project and it’s unclear how much it would cost to pay off the contractors who’ve already been hired.

”Stopping the project at this point could cost anywhere between $150 million and $200 million dollars,” said KCBS and Chronicle insider Phil Matier. “Even BART insiders had mixed emotions about this project. One guy even called up and said he didn’t like it, and asked how much it would cost to pull the plug. But when he got the bill he saw that it was basically half of what the total is. So I don’t know if it’s too big to fail, but at this point it’s too big to stop.”

Supporters of the project say it will create construction jobs and raise the airport’s profile.

Some transit activists say the money should be spent on increasing bus service, or fixing up BART itself.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

More from Phil Matier
  • mechanic

    “Kill it, before it multiplies” ….. an old school yard chant that is applicable to this situation. More $$ we don’t have. Shuttle buses work just fine.

    • dopey


  • Grokpaint

    Oakland will continue to be a non-destination in all conceivable ways as long as minds that live in the past are given voice. Look to the future for once or be forever mired behind the rest of the wired wondering why no once takes Oakland seriously.

  • bubu

    Besides the cost, I think the connector is ill-concieved in regard to the drop off in the parking lot. Undoubtedly, the connector is a good concept – because future airline flights will be on the raise and hopefully the connector will provide its intended service. The cost is substantial. At the moment, the cost of money is cheap, therefore it takes a lot to meet obligations. If we wait during an inflationary period, BART might get more for its dollars! I hope the new GM will change things at BART!

  • Streetsblog San Francisco » Today’s Headlines

    […] Phil Matier: Stopping the OAC Could Cost BART $150 Million (KCBS Radio) […]

  • DavidL

    bubu, the “drop-off” will be very close to curbside 4, near where AC Transit buses stop. Therefore, except for the stairway/escalator down, it will hardly take any longer. Opposition folks have been lying about it being hundreds of feet away, yet the rendering above shows otherwise. Comparing the perspective height of the air traffic control tower and seeing the overhangs above the curbside verifies what I say here.

  • DavidL

    @mechanic: no, shuttle buses are a D-I-S-A-S-T-E-R. These morons who keep mentioning BRT (rapidbus) need to get their heads out of the butts also, as BRT hasn’t even gotten as far as being built anywhere in the Bay Area. Shuttles have the problems of lights, traffic, bottlenecks when there is roadwork, and consuming fuel. OAC is the answer, and AirBART will be gone. However, AC Transit, barring a complete budget meltdown–will still run its same route from the Coliseum station for those who need to stop at any of the multiples in between.
    @Grokpaint: “no-one takes Oakland seriously? Do you want to tell that to the many company CEO’s and restaurant owners who have moved over here from other cities including SF?

    • bubu

      DavidL – money is the prime motivator here! We won’t know if OAC is a good idea until the project is finished. All I know, I will be paying more for the transfer! But what is a couple of bucks to someone who is paying hundreds for a flight.

    • bubu

      DavidL – Shuttle buses are cheaper. We will have the same problem that SFO employees endured. Higher price to getting to work!

  • bubu

    One last comment and we will lay this issue to rest! I hope Oakland is benefiting from the construction tax revenue from this project on the materials and labor.

  • DavidL

    bubu, I don’t want to carry on any further than you wish, so forgive me for being lengthy.
    What makes you think already, that you will be paying more? There is currently no set fare, and it will likely not be set until the project is complete: a bad economy [by 2014] may lead to a fare double that of AirBART; a good economy may lead to one “comparable to AirBART”, so perhaps the same of $3 one way or at worst, $4.
    Oakland is benefiting from at least having hundreds to thousands of its residents with jobs from this project, and the latest update I received was that guideway construction starts sometime this month; other parts soon to commence this summer. Finally, no disrespect intended, yet I don’t give a rat’s behind if shuttles are cheaper; they are lousy if they have to deal w/the aforementioned road obstacles, and not a source of transportation that will inspire people to get people out of their cars the way an elevated guideway will.
    Although comparisons can be made with BART SFO, I see that project as a way just to burn holes in passengers wallets with their ridiculous to-the-airport fee.
    I was sent a pdf from an update-presentation last Wed that I missed while out of town. If you have interest, I can forward it to you, and you can send your questions/feedback to the OAC project manager.
    Peace, and go OAC! About 156 weeks left until its taking passengers each way…countin’ them down, one by one. :-)

    • bubu

      First of all, BART will be paying on the loans to build the OAC for quite some time. The fares charged on the connector will help pay for these loans. Secondly, there is no guarantee that the workers will be residents of Oakland, even if the contract stipulates a percentage of workers must be from the local area..Call Bechtel lawyers on how they get out of this one! Until I find out from the Mayor Quan that they are reaping the benefits of “tax revenue” from this project, the hundreds to thousand jobs you exclaim is “hype”…Makes me wonder who you are! In any event, the project is under way and the costs will come in rolling waves. No telling what the final bill will be!

  • DavidL

    If you are still wondering who I am, I am an OAK employee who has suffered through the airports decline until recent months; partly because of the delay of a reliable connector between BART and the terminals. While SFO benefited from theirs, eventually leading to us losing thousands of our passengers to that airport, the better connection from/with BART also led to discount airlines such as JetBlue and Southwest seeing it as opportunity among other reasons that they wanted to put more flights there; the competition with Virgin America was another reason. In any case, I am optimistic that OAC can help bring OAK back into the Bay Area airport competition, since it is such a central airport for 4 BART lines (from 4 terminae anyway).
    I understand what you mean about what number of workers may or may not be Oakland residents. However, I see it as an opportunity, at least, to help get Oakland back on its feet and slowly out of a dismal unemployment funk.
    Thank you for your thoughts, and letting me share mine.

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