After almost exactly a year of trying to make the Oakland Airport Connector (OAC) project equitable and cost-effective, it looks like we’ve finally won the original battle. Back in February 2009, more than a 100 advocates urged the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) not to provide stimulus funds to the OAC and instead to provide the funds to all the regional transit agencies to prevent service cuts and fare hikes.
MTC didn’t agree, but a year later, the Federal Transit Administration has told MTC that this is the only reasonable course of action.
FTA sent a letter to BART and MTC today saying that there’s simply not enough time to implement BART’s corrective action plan that had been mandated by FTA, and that MTC should turn to plan B and revert the $70 million in stimulus funds back to the regional transit agencies.
The letter, which you really should click on and read in full, is beautifully worded:
I am required to reject your plan for the following reasons. Based on the timelines submitted by BART, there is no way the agency can come into full compliance with Title VI by September 30, 2010. The requirements of ARRA dictate that any funds not disbursed by September 30, 2010, must be lapsed back to the Treasury. And since I cannot allow BART to draw any funds for the OAC project prior to coming into full compliance, it is clear that pursuit of the OAC project would result in the funds either being reallocated out of the Bay area or lapsed. Both scenarios are unacceptable to me as I am sure they are to you. Let me say that, based on FTA’s experience in other cities, BART is being realistic in admitting that the process of coming into full compliance will take considerably longer than the 8+ months that remain before the September 30 deadline. I appreciate and respect your honesty in this regard.
Given the fact that the initial Title VI complaint against BART was well founded, I am not in a position to award the ARRA funds to BART while the agency remains out of compliance. Moreover, it is clear that, if FTA were to pursue such a course, the likelihood of protracted litigation with the parties that made the initial complaint is extremely high. Given this situation, and the fact that we are now only 3 weeks away from the March 5 deadline, I must bring these discussions to a close so that we can work together to ensure that the ARRA funds can create and preserve jobs in the Bay area.
This is all very surreal. After so many losses, so many frustrating days and nights knowing that we were doing the right thing but still getting nowhere, it’s a bit hard to believe that the FTA has validated our arguments.
I don’t know what BART’s next move is. I hope that they sit down with transit and social justice advocates and explore a more equitable bus rapid transit project. The Oakland Airport Connector could still be a highly successful project that creates jobs and provides a cheap and convenient connection to the airport.
Regardless, $70 million in stimulus funds will go to good use, and I couldn’t be much happier about that. AC Transit desperately needs these funds. Muni can close their entire budget gap with these funds. And of course BART will greatly benefit from these funds.
Thanks to everyone who’s pitched in over the past year. Our efforts have finally been proven to be well worth it.
Previous posts on the Oakland Airport Connector:
- 1/27/10: Heminger to MTC – let’s give BART some more time; Advocates to MTC – reprogram the money now
- 1/26/10: Bay Area bloggers unite to urge MTC not to gamble stimulus funds on Oakland Airport Connector
- 1/20/10: OMG, OMG, OMG! FTA withholds funding from BART for OAC
- 12/9/09: Believe it or not, the final Oakland Airport Connector project is even worse than expected
- 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