The Board of the Alameda County (Calif.) Transportation Authority recently approved a $1.4 billion expenditure plan to fund transportation programs and capital projects in Alameda County over the next 20 years.
Included in the plan is a $65.8 million down payment on the Bay Area Rapid Transit-Oakland International Airport Connector.
The largest portion of the funding, 60%, will be spent on maintaining various programs, including: local street and road improvements, transit-operating funds, funding for non-motorized transportation and paratransit funding. The remaining 40% will be spent on capital projects such as BART, freeway widening, upgrading transit corridors and the building of the BART-Oakland Connector.
“Alameda County and the whole Bay Area will be growing dramatically in population over the next 20 years,” said Steve Gregory, senior strategic planner at the Port of Oakland. “The airport connector will contribute significantly to congestion reduction. We anticipate it will carry approximately three million passengers a year by 2010. This will replace roughly 52 million vehicle miles traveled in airport trips annually.”
BART, the official project sponsor, is currently conducting an environmental analysis and is undertaking preliminary engineering on the project.
“At the moment what they are looking at in the environmental process are some alternative modes. One would be a fixed rail, elevated guideway and automated train. Another one would be what is called ‘quality bus,’ which means clean fuel buses possibly with some signal preemption capability," Gregory said. "While a number of us would like to see the fixed guideway rail alternative selected, we have to be careful not to prejudice the environmental assessment process at this stage.”
If a light rail system were chosen, the track would span about three and a quarter miles from the Coliseum BART station to the new terminal complex at Oakland International Airport.
Although the project was allocated $65.8 million by the expenditure plan, construction still depends on voters choosing to continue a half-cent sales tax used for transportation.
“If the sales tax does pass with two-thirds voter support this November, then the funds will be available starting in 2002,” said Christine Monsen, executive director of the Alameda authority.
A six-year construction period is anticipated for the project, Gregory said. If all goals are met, the new connector will open at the same time as the new terminal complex currently under construction at Oakland International Airport.