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Grand jury raps BART linkup to San Jose

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  • 6/22 Oakland Tribune
    Published Tuesday, June 22, 2004, in the Oakland Tribune Grand jury raps BART linkup to San Jose Report blames Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority for
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 22, 2004
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      Published Tuesday, June 22, 2004, in the Oakland Tribune

      Grand jury raps BART linkup to San Jose

      Report blames Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority for
      financial mismanagement of sales tax money

      By Sean Holstege

      South Bay transit planners cannot afford to build a BART extension to
      San Jose and should stop spending money on it, a Santa Clara County
      grand jury has concluded.

      The 22-page report blames the Santa Clara Valley Transportation
      Authority for financial mismanagement of local sales tax money. An
      inexperienced, oversized and overly political board failed to keep a
      tight leash on planners, who may have misled voters, the jury

      The report, released late last week, is the latest in a string of
      setbacks for the $4 billion San Jose extension, but it also spells bad
      news for Fremont residents and could prompt the region to rethink its
      priorities for a Bay Area rail network.

      That's because the proposed $634 million extension to Fremont's Warm
      Springs, which has been on the books for decades, hinges on two things
      now very much in doubt.

      One is money from San Mateo County, from the operating surplus on the
      new SFO line. SamTrans is to contribute $145 million, but the trains
      have been far emptier than expected, so empty that the line is
      operating in the red to the tune of $20 million a year.

      Warm Springs construction cannot proceed until all the money for a
      "rail connection" into Santa Clara County has been secured, according
      the Alameda County ballot measure that paid for work. But South Bay
      voters only raised about half of the funds for the BART line. State
      money is in limbo, and earlier this year the Federal Transit
      Administration recommended against federal money for BART to San Jose.

      The grand jury report noted that "VTA does not have the funds to
      complete BART anytime in the next 20 years" and acknowledged VTA's
      view that Warm Springs "was in jeopardy."

      Critics of extending BART said the grand jury reinforces their claims.
      Backers said the report reconfirms what is known about the bleak
      financial outlook, and plays down the fact that voters on both sides
      of the county line overwhelmingly supported BART.

      "Warm Springs would be one of the least effective transportation
      investments this region has ever made. It's in an industrial area
      with very little around it," said Stuart Cohen, executive director of
      the Transportation and Land Use Coalition.
      [BATN: See http://www.transcoalition.org/reports/b_w/b_w_a.html ]

      "It will have horrible ridership. BART will be faced with a major
      question about doing the project, especially if there is a financial
      implosion in Santa Clara," he added.

      Not so fast, say longtime supporters such as Alameda County Supervisor
      Scott Haggerty.

      "I think we'd be extremely short-sighted by not investing in BART
      going south," Haggerty said. "How much BART can be built, that's the
      question. Maybe it's time we talk about phasing the project and going
      to Milpitas."

      A BART connection to Santa Clara's light-rail system at Milpitas is
      achievable and enough to get the Warm Springs project, said Christine
      Monsen, who runs the agency spending Alameda County's Measure B sales
      tax transportation money.

      [BATN: <http://www.acta2002.com/2000_MEASURE_B/BART-Fremont.html>
      BATN notes that the cost of this simple, albeit useless, 5.4 mile,
      one-station BART extension has already risen from $546.3 million at
      the time it was sold to voters
      <http://www.acta2002.com/images/expenditure_plan_v14.pdf> to $695.5
      million -- a 27% blow-out before a single shovel of dirt has been
      turned. Historically, BART extension "budgets" for political sales
      purposes have always been at least 100% below the final delivered
      project price, so look for this number to explode upwards once it
      ever gets under way.]

      She and BART Director Dan Richard said the grand jury report should
      prompt the area to look again at its commitments to a regional rail

      "There's no question Warm Springs will take longer. It's very hard to
      get there on the track we're on," Richard said.

      Voters in March shuffled in an extra $85 million for Warm Springs when
      they agreed to increase bridge tolls by $1. How the deck gets sorted
      is the job of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission. The MTC has
      asked project sponsors to report by next month how much money they
      have, and how much they need.

      "We are taking each of those projects and giving them a good hard
      look-over," said MTC's policy director, Therese McMillan. "Right now,
      I don't have enough information to rethink that project. Show me the
      numbers, then we can see if there's a case to me made."

      [BATN: On the contrary, MTC has had the numbers to show that the
      project is a complete disaster since before 1998 -- starting with
      numbers generated by its own staff!! -- but has chosen to ignore them.
      See for example the MTC-sourced table

      Contact Sean Holstege at sholstege@...
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