Two station locations for the median of Highway 4 are under consideration:
• The west median station, about 1,200 feet east of Hillcrest Avenue, has the major advantage of being fully funded. Its disadvantage is that it’s close to the PG&E power station and not well situated for transit-oriented development of apartments, townhouses, stores, restaurants and offices on the north side of the highway.
• The east median station, about a half-mile east of Hillcrest Avenue, would allow for twice as much transit-oriented development as the west median station. Its disadvantage is that it would cost $30 million extra, funding for which has not yet been found.
As part of their approval of the plan, council members made clear to the BART board their strong preference for the east median station. The BART board met on Thursday to decide the issue, the results of which were not available at press time.
While both city and BART officials acknowledge the benefits of the east median station, the two groups differ on how the process should proceed. City officials want both station sites to go out to bid by construction companies, whereas BART officials prefer putting only the west median station out to bid and then implementing a “change order” if extra funding is found for the east median station.
Former City Councilman Arne Simonsen made a rare appearance before the council to argue in favor of the east median station, pointing out that East County residents are already compromising by not getting classic BART by being forced to settle for eBART, a cheaper, diesel train alternative.
If the east median station is not chosen, “you’re not only going to get a second-rate (transit) system, which we are willing to live with, but a second rate (station) location, which is going to create a traffic nightmare and not have the highest and best use of that area,” said Simonsen.
Joel Keller, a BART board member and former Antioch mayor, pointed out the benefits of eBART. It will create more than 600 jobs during construction and 40-80 permanent jobs once completed. It will have the effect of adding an additional lane to Highway 4, relieving congestion. One train can equal as many as 250 cars.
Keller acknowledged city officials’ preference for the east median station, and said that there will still be time to try to find the funding to make that station a reality.
“I will commit to you tonight that the dual-bid option that you have all been advocating for will not be taken off the table as an option unless I return to this City Council and tell you why that’s going to occur,” he said. “We will continue to try to find a way to make that happen.”
That pledge was good enough for Councilman Brian Kalinowski. “I’m going to go along with this and put all my faith in you individually,” he said to Keller.” Based on … the fact that you served on this council, you haven’t forgotten where you’ve come from, I believe your heart is there.”
Councilwoman Martha Parson voted for the plan, arguing that it’s not worth risking the possibility of funding for eBART instead going for other transit projects in the Bay Area if the council rejected it. “I don’t believe Antioch has waited 40 years to throw the baby out with the bathwater,” she said.
To Keller she added, “I’m putting my trust in you. Don’t fail me. I really believe that all of us can work together as a team and make this happen for Antioch. We’ve waited a long time. East County’s waited a long time. I think the eastern station is the best station. It’s the only one that makes the transit village work properly. I’m going to work my darndest to make it happen.”
On the same night, the Oakley City Council listened to an update on the eBART plans from several BART officials. They were generally pleased with what they heard but expressed concern that not enough parking spaces would be provided at the Hillcrest station.
Current projections are that there will be 3,150 daily riders but only 1,000 parking spaces when eBART starts operation in 2015. By 2030 there are projected to be 8,200 riders and 2,600 parking spaces.
“We feel (the parking) is inadequate,” said Councilman Jim Frazier, who suggested designing a Plan B in case a parking-space shortage arises. “If the (current) assumptions are wrong, then it’s designed and can move forward.”
The BART officials said that Oakley’s concerns and the Plan B suggestion will be taken into consideration.