BART Plans to Go to Oakland Airport Depsite Complaints

BART directors voted 7-1 Thursday to approve a $522 million plan to  build a 3.2-mile elevated tramway between BART's Oakland Coliseum station and Oakland International Airport.
The controversial project was first proposed 30 years ago, and Thursday about 80 speakers spoke on both sides of the issue at a hearing that  lasted nearly five hours.

Proponents say the project would create needed jobs and make it  easier for passengers to get to the airport.

But opponents say it would be much cheaper for BART to implement a  rapid bus service from the Coliseum station to the airport, saying a bus  system would only cost between $45 million and $60 million.

Critics also say BART shouldn't borrow up to $150 million from the  federal government to help pay for the project in the current economic  environment.

The Rev. Scott Denman, rector of St. John's Episcopal Church in  Oakland and the president of a community group called Genesis, told the board  "You wouldn't put an addition on your house when your house is in  foreclosure."

Jesse Hunt, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555,  which represents BART workers, said BART already faces a large budget deficit  and going ahead with the light rail project to the airport would be "digging  your fiscal hole even deeper."

Hunt said the money for the project "will have to come from riders  and workers."

After the vote, BART's General Manager Dorothy Dugger said the  project must still clear a few more hurdles from other agencies before it  finally goes forward, but that she believes today's action "is clearly an  important milestone."

Dugger said that if all goes well, contracts for the project will  be awarded by the end of this year, construction will begin sometime next  year and the tramway will begin operating in 2013.

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