A little over a year ago, East County transportation officials were touting the fact that in 2010, eBART trains would connect the Bay Point BART Station with stations in Pittsburg, Antioch, Oakley, Brentwood and Byron.
Now it looks like it could be decades before an eBART train reaches Oakley let alone Brentwood or Byron. The deal fell through when officials could not reach an agreement to run eBART trains on existing Union Pacific Railroad tracks through far East County.
So now the plan is to have eBART trains running on tracks in the median of Highway 4 and build stations at Railroad and Hillcrest avenues by the year 2015.
On Tuesday, the Oakley City Council was presented with an amendment to the original eBART agreement, which formally seals the deal on the fact that Oakley will not get eBART for quite a long time. Before the council approved the amendment, Mayor Bruce Connelley voiced his displeasure at the change in eBART plans.
I'm pretty darned upset about this, he said. The people have been paying for this for 40 years and now they are pulling Oakley out. You will not see BART in this town in less than 20 years. We have been paying for it. We had a plan. They dropped Oakley out, Brentwood out and Byron. The money could be found if the drive is there, in my opinion.
Councilman Brad Nix, who represents Oakley on several regional transportation committees, including one that is planning the eBART project, responded to Connelley's concerns.
Oakley is not dropped out of the plan, said Nix. We are continuing to address issues. The bottom line is the only way to build (eBART) to Hillcrest was through a more political deal that basically sucked money out of other projects. There's just no more money. And that's a reality. That's a different thing from saying BART doesn't want to come here. BART badly wants to come to Oakley.
But Connelley was not convinced, and is also concerned that eBART will increase traffic congestion when far East County residents head to and from the Hillcrest Station. My prediction is it will turn our new Bypass into a parking lot, he said.
That concern was shared by Councilwoman Pat Anderson, who wants to provide mass transit to and from Hillcrest. I would hope that the monies help subsidize a transportation system that is an arm or a leg to this Hillcrest system, she said.
Nix responded, Tri Delta (Transit) has assured BART staff that they intend to adapt their bus routes so that they can act as a feeder (to the Hillcrest Station).