bart_generic1.jpgBART’s plan to build a 3.2-mile-long elevated tramway between its Oakland Coliseum station and the Oakland airport, which has been discussed for more than 25 years, is facing yet another public hearing today.

Shortly before the Metropolitan Transportation Commission’s Programming and Allocations Committee began its meeting today, BART spokesman Linton Johnson said, “Over the last 25 or 30 years this project has faced more hurdles than an athlete. But nothing good comes without an effort.”

The connector, which is projected to cost between $470 million and $484 million, was approved by multiple agencies in 2009 and work was set to begin early this year.

But the Federal Transit Administration created a major roadblock in February by denying BART $70 million in federal stimulus money to help fund the project after three advocate groups filed a complaint alleging that the agency failed to evaluate whether the project would provide low-income and minority communities with a fair share of the project’s benefits.

BART is now trying to fill the $70 million funding gap through loans, more state funds, and money from one of the agency’s reserve funds.

BART also is hoping that the MTC will approve $20 million for the project.

Opponents of the airport connector project say BART could save hundreds of millions of dollars by developing a rapid bus service between the Coliseum station and the Oakland airport for about $60 million.

They also say such a service would only cost passengers $3 each way, compared to projections that the airport connector will cost up to $6 each way.

A recent study commissioned by TransForm, an Oakland-based transit advocacy group, says there will be a $102 subsidy by all taxpayers for each airport connector rider to travel the 3.2 miles to the airport.

Johnson said if the MTC and other agencies approve the project this month, work on the connector could begin in six months and take about four years to be completed.

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