Stung by the denial of $70 million in federal stimulus funds to build a proposed rail extension to the Oakland International Airport, BART is trying to get the project back on track by quietly lining up new financing.
Critics who say the $480 million project costs too much and benefits too few people had hoped the tramway plan was dead after the Federal Transportation Administration rejected the funding in February. The FTA ruled BART had not complied with a civil rights law by failing to prove the rail extension would benefit poor, minority, and non-English speaking people.
BART, however, has not abandoned the project. The transit district hopes to raise the $70 million by tapping into other federal, state and local funds — including diverting millions of dollars away from freeway projects such as an Interstate 880-Mission Boulevard interchange in Fremont.
"We are making progress. Our loss of the $70 million means we have to find the money somewhere else," BART spokesman Linton Johnson said. "We are talking with many different agencies."
The California Transportation Commission on Wednesday is scheduled to consider BART's request for $5.4 million in state funds for the 3.2-mile-long tramway between BART's Oakland Coliseum station and the airport.
BART also is looking at dipping into its capital reserve funds, doing a funding swap with the Alameda County Congestion Management Agency, seeking money from a 2006 state transportation measure, and borrowing more money from the federal government, according to online reports by the Bay Citizen and transportation watchdog group Streetsblog.
Critics of the airport connector say BART is acting prematurely before resolving all the civil rights concerns about the project. Johnson said BART has provided federal officials with its analysis of how the project affects low-income and minority residents.
Contact Denis Cuff at 925-943-8267.