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BART's loss of $70-million may be good news for other transit agencies

Much of funding will now go to San Francisco, Santa Clara, AC Transit

The Federal Transit Administration's denial of $70 million in federal stimulus money to BART for its proposed elevated rail connector to the Oakland International Airport is good news for other local transit agencies. That's because the $70 million will now be divided among those agencies.

And BART isn't being completely left out in the cold, as it will get $17 million from the $70 million federal pot for other uses.

FTA Administrator Peter Rogoff said in a letter on Friday that he is denying BART's bid for the $70 million in stimulus funds for the connector between the Oakland Coliseum station and the Oakland airport because it failed to properly analyze whether the project would provide a fair share of the project's benefits to low-income and minority communities.

BART estimated that the connector project would cost $492 million and has money lined up to pay much of the cost. But BART spokesman Jim Allison said today that the $70 million funding gap "is a significant gap to fill."

Allison said BART "will look for other ways to fill that gap but it will be difficult" because of the current economic climate.

One of the funding winners is the San Francisco Municipal Railway, which will get $17.5 million in stimulus money. Muni spokesman Judson True said $4.3 million will be used for preventive maintenance and $13.2 million for light rail vehicles. True said the funds "will help improve the reliability of Muni."

Noting the agency's fiscal problems, he added, "Clearly, we can use the money."

The Santa Clara Valley Transit Agency will get $12.2 million. VTA spokeswoman Jennie Loft said the money had been slated to buy replacement hybrid buses but the agency is trying to see if some of the money could be used for other purposes, such as for service costs.

AC Transit will get $6.8 million. The money technically will go for preventive maintenance but because money had already been set aside for maintenance, AC Transit actually will use the money to restore some of its planned service cuts, AC Transit spokesman Clarence Johnson said. But he said AC Transit will still have to make substantial service cuts on March 28 because of its large budget deficit.

Of the $17 million that BART will get, $6 million will pay to replace plastic coverboards that go over the electrified third rail on the transit system's tracks. BART also will get $6.4 million for the devices that run the motors in 40 train cars, $2.5 million for floor and seat cushion replacements for 50 cars and $1 million to reconfigure 100 cars. The agency will get an additional $1 million for power supplies for station communications.

Bay City News contributed to this report.

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