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BART Oakland Airport Extension Work Begins Amidst Criticism

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Construction on the Bay Area Rapid Transit system's extension to the Oakland Airport began this week, and critics of the project are none too pleased.

Anyone who's ever tried to take public transportation to the Oakland Airport knows it can be a hassle to switch from the BART train at the Coliseum station to the AirBART bus shuttle. The elevated, cable-powered, 3.2-mile extension will take future passengers directly into the clutches of OAK, and planners expect the work to be completed by 2014.

But many, including a member of BART's own board, believe the $500 million in funding the complete the extension would be better spent elsewhere.

"None of the problems with this project have gone away just because they have broken ground," John Knox-White, executive director of TransForm, a transportation watchdog group, told the Oakland Tribune. "This was a political pet project that was pushed through because many people had been working on something that looked like this for a long time."

Critics are quick to point out that the project's initial budget of $130 million has already swelled to nearly four times its size, while the estimated job projections have shrunk from 13,000 to 2,500. The Federal Transit Administration also blocked $70 million in funds for the extension last year, according to the Associated Press.

Proponents, however, are quick to tout the benefits. "There was a lot of debate about the San Francisco airport expansion, but now anybody you ask raves about it," BART spokesman Jim Allison told the Tribune. "You are going to see something similar in the future with the airport connector."

Yet even some within the BART family have publicly aired their grievances. "With the earlier BART administration, there were a lot of promises made that are not being met, and there is no way they will be," BART board member Robert Raburn told the Trib.

BART has big plans to balloon into other territories beyond Oakland Airport. Last December, the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority approved $772 million in funds to go towards a ten-mile extension route that would run all the way to San Jose.

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Filed by Carly Schwartz