An elevated rail connector between BART's Coliseum station and the Oakland International Airport could be in service in four years after the transit agency's directors voted 7-1 Thursday to award two contracts for the long-awaited project.
BART spokesman Linton Johnson said Thursday's action was final and promised that the 3.2-mile-long automated people mover will be built after being discussed for 20 years and numerous public hearings and votes by various transit agencies.
Johnson said contractors for the project, which is expected to cost $492 million, will spend the next several months finalizing the design
for the connector and BART hopes that construction work will begin next summer and that the connector will begin service in 2013.
BART Director Tom Radulovich of San Francisco cast the lone vote against the project and Director Lynette Sweet, also of San Francisco, was absent.
The board awarded a $361 million contract to the joint venture Flatiron/Parsons to build the people mover.
Flatiron is based in the Denver area and has a regional office in Benicia. Parsons Corp. is based in Pasadena.
The board also voted to pay Doppelmayr Cable Car Inc., which is based in Austria, about $5.7 million a year for 20 years to operate and
maintain the connector once it is built.
BART officials say the project, which will use $70 million in federal stimulus money, will create up to 5,000 direct and indirect jobs
during the construction phase, which is expected to take about three years.
BART officials also say the ride from the Coliseum station to the Oakland airport will only take eight minutes and 12 seconds and will be more reliable than the current shuttle bus service, which can be slow if there's heavy traffic on its route.
Andreas Cluver, the business representative for the Building and Construction Trades Council of Alameda County, said the project will create many jobs and have “a very positive impact on a job situation that is very dire.”
He said more than 30 percent of his union's members are currently out of work.
But representatives of several public transit advocacy groups told BART directors that the elevated rail plan is too expensive and that a rapid bus system could be implemented at a fraction of the cost.
John Knox White of TransForm, an Oakland-based advocacy group, also said he doesn't think the people mover service will be as quick as BART is projecting and he thinks there will be fewer riders than BART is estimating.
White said some studies indicate that the cost of a one-way ride on the people mover will be $6 but Johnson said the cost hasn't been
finalized and BART hopes that the cost will be closer to the $3 fare that riders pay on the current airport shuttle service.