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MTC OK's shifting $91m from Dumbarton Rail to Warm Springs BART

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  • 9/24 Fremont Argus
    Published Wednesday, September 24, 2008, by the Fremont Argus Vote fully funds BART s Warm Springs plan Matthew Artz The Argus FREMONT -- Construction of
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 25, 2008
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      Published Wednesday, September 24, 2008, by the Fremont Argus

      Vote fully funds BART's Warm Springs plan

      Matthew Artz
      The Argus

      FREMONT -- Construction of BART's long-awaited Warm Springs extension
      could start next summer now that transportation officials have
      secured all of the funds needed for the $890 million project.

      The Metropolitan Transportation Commission approved a plan Wednesday
      to close the project's $144 million shortfall in part by loaning it
      $91 million that had been set aside for the already cash-strapped
      Dumbarton Rail project.

      Although all of the funds for the Warm Springs extension have been
      pinned down, more than $200 million still is contingent on the Valley
      Transportation Authority committing to funding the BART extension
      into Santa Clara County.

      The California Transportation Commission today is set to approve
      $239 million for BART to San Jose, fulfilling the state's promise
      made nine years ago to contribute $760 million for the 16.3-mile
      extension.

      But even with state and regional agencies lining up solidly behind
      the $6.1 billion project, there is a still a huge missing link in
      the financial puzzle. The VTA needs about $750 million in federal
      assistance to build the BART line.

      The focus now turns to the Nov. 4 election, in which Santa Clara
      County voters will be asked to support a one-eighth cent sales tax
      measure that would provide about $42 million a year to operate the
      train service.

      Passage of the sales tax measure, which must be approved by a two-
      thirds vote, would make it easier to fulfill the funding condition
      for the Warm Springs extension, but it still could be satisfied
      even if the measure fails, said Jim Pierson, Fremont's director of
      transportation and operations.

      Wednesday's MTC vote marked a landmark for the Warm Springs
      extension, which has been a top Fremont transit priority for three
      decades. Conversely it was a major blow for Dumbarton Rail, which
      Union City has touted as a vital ingredient for transforming its
      BART station into a regional transportation hub.

      The Dumbarton project, which would include a new rail line with
      trains running across the Bay between Union City and both San Jose
      and San Francisco, became imperiled two years ago when project costs
      essentially doubled from $300 million to $595 million.

      With the Warm Springs extension much further along in terms of
      planning and financing, transportation officials decided to loan it
      $91 million of the $300 million that had been allotted for Dumbarton
      Rail.

      The cash infusion gives the Warm Springs project money that will be
      available when construction is expected to get under way during the
      next two years. Some of the funds that had been anticipated, namely
      revenue from BART's San Francisco airport extension, have yet to
      materialize.

      The $91 million is to be paid back to the Dumbarton project by 2019,
      but there is no condition that it be paid back with interest.

      "Certainly, we would have liked to have seen a tighter program for
      payback of the loan," said Mark Evanoff, Union City's redevelopment
      manager.

      The MTC still plans to fully fund Dumbarton Rail. It included a
      provision in Wednesday's vote that it would look for funding to help
      acquire the Oakland Subdivision, a stretch of rail track in Southern
      Alameda County owned by Union Pacific. If the subdivision could be
      acquired and dedicated to passenger rail lines, including Altamont
      Commuter Express, Capitol Corridor and Dumbarton, that would help
      pave the way for Union City's BART station becoming a transit hub.

      BART still is unlikely to begin construction of the Warm Springs
      extension until the Santa Clara funding condition is satisfied,
      Pierson said. If the sales tax measure is approved, BART could
      advertise the construction in February and begin construction in June.

      Under that schedule, Pierson said, the Warm Springs BART station
      would be operational in mid-2014. The Oakland A's are hoping to move
      into a new stadium in Fremont less than two miles from the station in
      2012.

      The MTC vote included a provision that in six months the commission
      will review the plan for getting BART to San Jose. However, Alameda
      County Supervisor Scott Haggerty, who sits on the commission, said
      there were no plans to return the $91 million to Dumbarton rail if
      the BART extension stalls.

      "We want to move forward with projects and get them built," he
      said. "Getting BART down into San Jose is long overdue."

      Gary Richards of the San Jose Mercury News contributed to this report.


      Fremont reporter Matthew Artz can be reached at 510-353-7002 or
      martz@...
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