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.
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.