MTC Shows its True Colors-OAC

MTC’s Programming and Allocations Committee met to once again take the heat in deciding whether to provide additional funding for the BART Oakland Airport Connector (OAC), a truly execrable project. This project, which had died after the Federal Transit Administration pulled the plug on $70 million in stimulus funding, showed itself to have many lives, and many functionaries willing to bend institutional rules to raise it from the dead. MTC violated its own rules in bypassing a required vote by its Commissioners, and was caught at it.

Large numbers of presumably unemployed carpenters showed up to flex their political muscles, with a banner eerily calling out CIA. Only this time, CIA meant Carpenters in Action. They were calling for jobs, and clearly weren’t much concerned that the project was enormously bloated in cost, and already eliminated any benefits for the impoverished community it was to pass through. The carpenters seemed unaware that most of the jobs resulting from the project would be elsewhere, where the people mover system will be built. The use of precast concrete is going to reduce the construction jobs dramatically.

After many impassioned speeches calling for MTC to preserve the Bay Area’s underfunded transit system and not waste money on the OAC, the committee voted to approve the funding. While there was a significant group of Commissioners who saw the problems with approving the money, they were in the minority.

MTC, through this and many previous votes, demonstrated more clearly than ever before that the agency truly does not give a crap about outcomes. The fact that the OAC would waste a half-billion dollars was not a consideration. MTC has always been about cutting political deals. The OAC represented someone’s deal, and MTC’s unspoken rules prohibit going back on a deal, no matter how loathsome a project has become.