UPDATE: Unsurprisingly, the BART Board voted earlier today 7-1 to approve the project.
Tomorrow, the BART Board of Directors will vote on approving the contract to begin construction of the Oakland Airport Connector. And believe it or not, the project has gotten even worse.
Remember at that late night City Council meeting in October when BART and its supporters went on and on about how we need to do this project now because the bidding environment is so competitive and we’d save so much money? BART had been lobbying the Council for weeks saying just that and reminding the Council how all of their projects were coming in way under budget. Of course, they couldn’t share exact numbers because the bids were still private, but there were rumors going around at the time that the bids were coming in significantly lower (someone even tossed around the number of 30% lower).
And this was an argument we just couldn’t fight because we thought they were right. Most infrastructure project bids in the Bay Area had been coming in much lower than expected. We of course countered that even if it was a $400 million project, it still wasn’t worth it, but we never argued that the bids would not be low.
Well, apparently we should have because now we know that the bids didn’t come in all that low. In fact, out of the three companies that made it through the process (one other dropped out), two of the three bids came in over budget and one came in just a bit under budget. The chart in the BART meeting packet obscures the total costs a bit (you have to look further for the total costs), but using their numbers, here are the estimated total bids (including funds BART has spent to date):
Flatiron / Parsons JV
Walsh Construction Company
Does that look like huge savings to you?
So they obviously picked the cheapest bid, since it’s the only one they could choose and still come in under budget (or even at budget). The problem is that this company has by far the slowest technology. The even bigger problem is that the staff report doesn’t tell us exactly how slow (we know via research) and the detailed info from their bid won’t be made public until after the BART Board votes tomorrow. What we do know is that the RFP was changed this summer, to accommodate what ended up being the winning bid. As I wrote in August:
In its RFP, issued in April, BART had set the minimum speed for the OAC at 35 miles per hour, which is already really slow, and significantly slower than the initially proposed 45 mph. But on July 31st, BART released an addendum to their RFP that sets the minimum speed even lower, at 27 mph!
The speed limit on Hegenberger is 30 miles per hour, and while there are stop lights, at some points, traffic will be moving faster than the OAC. Then, on the airport road, the speed limit rises to 45 mph, which means that cars and buses will be speeding past the OAC. Even without considering the less seamless connection of the OAC (going upstairs at BART; going downstairs and across a parking lot at the airport), with these new lower speeds, I can’t imagine many scenarios in which the OAC would make the trip in less time than the current AirBART bus.
The truth is that after we lost at the Oakland City Council, I realized that this project was going to happen and there was little hope left of stopping it, no matter how wasteful it is. But I also hoped I had been wrong the whole time. I hoped that the bids would come in very low so that BART would not have to take out a huge loan that mortgages the entire system. I hoped that they’d pick a reasonable technology that would at least somewhat improve the trip time from BART to the Airport, albeit at triple the price. I hoped that people would ride it and that it wouldn’t bankrupt the system. Because ultimately, one of my biggest concerns is about BART’s longevity and if the OAC fails, BART fails along with it.
But now that I see what this project really is, I’ve lost much of that hope. I know it’s incredibly unlikely, but the right thing for the BART directors to do tomorrow would be for them to reject this project, now that they have all of the information at hand. I’ll be there tomorrow morning to tell them just that and to make one last stand against this terrible project.
If you agree, join me there:
What: BART Board Meeting on the Oakland Airport Connector
When: Thursday, December 10th @ 10am
Where: Kaiser Center – Third Floor, 344 20th Street in Oakland
Previous posts on the Oakland Airport Connector:
- 11/17/09: Fight against Oakland Airport Connector leads to FTA civil rights investigation of BART
- 10/6/09: Breaking down the Chamber’s misinformation on the OAC
- 9/28/09: Stop the OAC: Urge the Oakland City Council to pass a resolution opposing this boondoggle
- 9/16/09: Oakland Public Works to BART: Oakland does have a stake in the OAC
- 8/11/09: Sign the Petition: Stop the Oakland Airport Connector – Demand a Better Connector!
- 7/21/09: Transportation Day of Action in Oakland Tomorrow!
- 7/17/09: Oakland Public Works Committee strongly questions Oakland Airport Connector
- 6/29/09: It’s time for the City Council to weigh in on the Oakland Airport Connector
- 6/16/09: Don Perata on Oakland Airport Connector: “Too much money for too little transit”
- 5/29/09: Oakland Airport Connector now in the hands of the Port Commission
- 5/13/09: BART staff coordinate Oakland Airport Connector astroturf campaign
- 5/8/09: Take Action: Turn Oakland Airport Connector into RapidBART
- 4/27/09: Advocates secure temporary win on the Oakland Airport Connector
- 4/22/09: BART’s brilliant plant for financing the Oakland Airport Connector
- 2/23/09: Protect Bay Area Transit: Stop MTC from Wasting Stimulus Funds