Regional Alliance For Transit
Box 20375
Oakland 94620
Voice 510 655-4438
Fax 510 658-1425

December 22, 1997

Mr Wally Burnett
Chief Clerk
Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation and Related Agencies
United States Senate
SD-133 Dirksen SOB
Washington, DC 20510

Re: San Francisco Airport Extension

Dear Mr Burnett:

As you will see from the enclosed copy of our letter to FTA Administrator Linton, thirteen months ago an arrangement was reached whereby the BART fixed guideway extension to the San Francisco Airport would escape review under U.S.C. 49 § 5309 (e)(2). This was accomplished by combining it with three other fixed guideway railroad extension projects into a “regional program.” The Airport Extension was the only one of the four fixed guideway projects whose sponsor sought federal New Starts funding, and the combined New Starts funding ratio was less than 33%, the level at which § 5309 (e)(2) comes into effect.

In December, 1996, after years of construction, and within one month of the roll-up, the first of the projects in the regional program (BART to Pittsburg) opened for revenue service.

With the “regional program” now consisting of three projects, FTA issued a Full Funding Grant Agreement for the Airport Extension on June 30, 1997. The FTA-certified Final EIR/EIS for the Airport Extension states the cost per new ride is $26.12.

In July, 1997, after years of construction, and a few days after the FFGA was issued, the second of the four projects comprising the regional program (BART to Pleasanton) opened for revenue service. As was the case with the Pittsburg extension, Pleasanton failed federal cost-effectiveness standards—no federal money went to either project.

At this point, the regional program consisted of the Airport Extension and the Caltrain downtown San Francisco Extension. The ratio of New Starts funds to the total cost of the two project regional program was approximately 42%, over the one third ratio that was used to justify exemption from § 5309 (e)(2).

Three months later (October 2, 1997), the environmental analysis of the Caltrain downtown San Francisco Extension project was terminated by its sponsor.

At this point, the single remaining fixed guideway project of the “regional program”—the Airport Extension—had a ratio of New Starts funds to total cost of 64%.

On October 27, 1997, the Airport Extension was awarded $29.9 million in New Starts funds.

On November 19, 1997 the Bay Area’s MPO reprogrammed funding for the Caltrain fixed guideway project to downtown San Francisco, away to other projects, such as parking lot construction in other counties. The Airport Extension—the sole remaining project comprising the “regional program”—now is to receive over 33% of its funding from federal New Starts funds. Yet the Airport Extension still is treated by FTA as being exempt from U.S.C. 49 § 5309 (e)(2).

Over $600 million remains to be awarded to the Airport Extension via the FFGA. Will the project ever come under review of 49 § 5309 (e)(2)?

Is it Congressional intent that any fixed guideway project that would fail review under U.S.C. 49 § 5309 (e)(2) merely has to be combined with unrelated other projects, until a New Starts ratio of less than one third is achieved? Would you favor us with your opinion on this subject? Given the determination to balance the federal budget, with this new information, do you believe it is the Committee’s intention to provide additional funds to the Airport Extension?


M. Kiesling