It’s time for the City Council to weigh in on the Oakland Airport Connector

29 Jun

Disclosure: I was recently hired to work part time on a short term basis for TransForm on the Oakland Airport Connector campaign. However, the thoughts expressed in my posts on this subject are my own and should not be construed to be those of TransForm.

The campaign for a better connector is really heating up. The Oakland Port Commission directed their staff to work with BART to look at alternatives to the Oakland Airport Connector (OAC). Don Perata sent a hard-hitting letter to MTC arguing that the OAC is “too much money for too little transit and economic value.” And just last Thursday, several Alameda County Transportation Improvement Authority (ACTIA) members strongly questioned the project and asked staff about alternatives.

Doesn’t it seem like it’s time for the Oakland City Council to weigh in? Larry Reid and BART don’t think so.

Last Thursday, Councilmember Nancy Nadel asked the Council Rules Committee to put a review of the OAC on the agenda for the July 14th Public Works Committee meeting, which she chairs. Specifically, she asked to agendize the “Discussion And Possible Action On The Bay Area Rapid Transit’s (BART) Design And Construction Proposal, Funding Status, Local Job Projections, And Projected Ridership For The Oakland Airport Connector Project.”

It seems commonplace for the Chair of the Public Works Committee to ask to review a half billion dollar public works project that the Council hasn’t reviewed in many years and which has changed substantially over time. So when the item came to Rules Committee, it was largely expected that they’d put it on the agenda.

BART and Larry Reid didn’t want that to happen though. Kerry Hamill, from BART, spoke to the committee and urged them to hold off hearings until after recess, in September. Her stated reasoning was that the RFP was just released and that BART wouldn’t have solid numbers until then. The problem with that argument is that BART has been approaching agency after agency for funding, so although the final financial numbers may change a bit when proposals return, the numbers are solid enough to present to MTC, the Port, and ACTIA, which means they should be ready to present to Oakland.

Councilmember Larry Reid backed up Hamill and pleaded with the other committee members to hold off until after recess. Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan presented the reasons why the committee should immediately agendize the item – costs have skyrocketed, ridership projections have plummeted, the fare has increased from $2 to $6, and the local community stops have been eliminated. She made it clear that if the Council waits until September to review the project, it would be too late for them to impact the OAC project.

Kaplan is right, and it was apparent that besides Reid, the rest of the committee members were convinced by her arguments. Ultimately though, they didn’t take any action and pushed the issue to this week’s Rules Committee meeting. This July 2nd meeting will be the last chance to agendize the issue before the Council goes on recess.

That’s why it’s so important for any Oaklander who cares about public transit and economic development to contact the Rules Committee members and ask them to immediately agendize a review of the OAC. Please take 2 minutes and send an email via TransForm’s action page.

Or if you’d prefer, email or call the committee members directly:

Council President Jane Brunner, District 1
JBrunner@oaklandnet.com or 510-238-7001

Jean Quan, District 4
JQuan@oaklandnet.com or 510-238-7004

Ignacio De La Fuente, District 5
IDeLaFuente@oaklandnet.com or 510-238-7005

When you contact them, know that you’re not alone in asking for the City Council to weigh in on this project. Last Thursday afternoon, a few hours after the Rules Committee meeting, ACTIA heard an informational report on the OAC. Many ACTIA board members raised questions about the project and alternatives, and some specifically wanted to know whether Oakland really wants this project or not. Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty said, “I need some direction out of Oakland….that says either you want this, or you don’t want this.”

So please contact the Rules Committee and echo the words of Haggerty. It is time for Oakland to give some direction on the OAC, and the July 14th Public Works Committee meeting is the time and place for that to happen.

For background information and ongoing updates about the OAC, please visit www.OaklandAirportConnector.com.

Previous posts on the Oakland Airport Connector:

3 Responses to “It’s time for the City Council to weigh in on the Oakland Airport Connector”

  1. dto510 June 29, 2009 at 9:20 am #

    I think at this point the MTC is going to assume that Oakland doesn’t want the Connector if the Council doesn’t weigh in on it. At every single meeting, there are more opponents than supporters, and BART is unable to point to anything from Oakland’s Council that they approve of or even agree to allow this project. BART asking that Oakland not discuss it until after funding is secured shows that they don’t think they have the Council’s support either.

  2. Bruce Nye June 30, 2009 at 4:01 pm #

    Becks,

    Having followed this issue for some time, and having become increasingly furious about it, I e-mailed Brunner, Quan and DeLaFuente urging them to get it on the 7/14 Public Works Budget. Within ten minutes I had a Blackberry response from Ignacio saying he agreed and that on Thursday he would urge it go on agenda for discussion.

    • Becks June 30, 2009 at 4:03 pm #

      Thanks Bruce, and that’s great news about Ignacio.

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