BART directors Thursday approved spending more of the transit agency's own money to finance the Oakland Airport Connector project after federal stimulus funds were taken away earlier this year following a civil rights complaint.
The BART board approved the new financing plan for the $484 million project, which would build an elevated rail system between the Coliseum station and Oakland International Airport.
In February, the Federal Transit Administration denied BART $70 million in federal stimulus money to 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 filling the $70 million gap through loans, more state funds, and money from one of the agency's reserve funds. BART is on the hook for about $55 million of that missing $70 million, board vice president Bob Franklin said.
BART board president James Fang acknowledged that "there's a big financial risk for BART. It's kind of an unprecedented thing."
However, Fang and most of the other directors argued that the number of jobs it would create and the congestion relief it would provide on the highways and roads headed to the airport were enough of a reason to vote for it.
The board Thursday voted 8-1 in favor of the new financing plan, and gave conditional approval to awarding contracts for the construction and operation of the airport connector, depending on loans and other money from state and federal agencies that have not been given final approval.
Tom Radulovich was the lone director to vote against the plan. Radulovich said "there's not a lot of new money here," and that the majority of the new funding is in loans that have to eventually be repaid.
"Debts aren't free money, and the people who are going to pay it are you," he said, pointing to the audience, "who will be paying with higher fares, and receiving worse service."