“Metropolitan Transportation Commission officials said pretty definitively they are not in a position to fund the median east station,” Keller told the council. “I know that’s not the news you wanted to hear. But I thought it was important for you to hear that.”
The good news is that there is enough funding for an eBART station in the Highway 4 median about 1,200 feet east of the Hillcrest Avenue interchange. It would still accommodate nearby development of townhouses and businesses, but not as much as city officials’ preferred location in the highway median 700 feet farther east.
That station would allow for 54 percent more residential units, 130 percent more retail space and 32 percent more office space, according to a recent study. Although nearly 400 additional daily eBART trips would be generated at that station site, they “may not be worth the additional costs, which amount to approximately $130,000 for each additional daily trip,” the study concludes.
The extra $50 million cost is due to the need to construct under the highway a twice-as-long, twice-as-wide, less curved tunnel containing two eBART tracks that would require a ventilation system and a retaining wall in the hillside, according to Rick Radtree, engineering project manager for eBART. The tunnel for the station closer to Hillcrest will be built as part of the Highway 4 widening project.
Although council members had received the study last month with the bad news about their preferred station location, they were disappointed to hear it declared all but dead (in the absence of a sudden $50 million windfall from a source such as federal stimulus funding).
“This is Antioch’s last chance to do something really great,” said Councilman Reggie Moore. “It’s the last big (piece) of land we can build on and create a TOD community. The people of Antioch deserve that opportunity to build something close to the highway as we look out 15 to 20 years. We should find the funding partners to put this together. Once you start a project, funding sources seem to open up.”
Moore’s last sentence echoed Keller, who earlier said that although the $462 million funding has been secured to construct the 10-mile eBART line from the Bay Point BART Station to Hillcrest Avenue, not all of the money might be available when it’s needed. As a result, some of the funds will need to be borrowed, resulting in $15 million in financing costs that had not been originally estimated. But he’s hopeful that the funding situation will work out, and is eager to award a $20 million contract in May to build the transfer station between the BART and eBART lines.
“That’s a critical part of linking eBART to BART,” said Keller. “We need to get that contract in the market place. We want to take advantage of the bidding environment, which is significantly below what it’s been in the past. Once you actually start a transit project, somehow the regional funding is located to finish it. We need to start the eBART project so we can claim truthfully that we have a project and that it’s for real and we intend to complete the project.”
The transfer station construction is expected to take about two years. Laying the track and building the stations at Railroad and Hillcrest avenues will take place at the same time the highway is widened from Loveridge Road to Hillcrest Avenue. Both projects are scheduled to be completed in 2015.
In other action at the Jan. 26 council meeting, residents continued the debate begun in November over whether the city should form a police oversight board. Oversight advocates argue that lawsuits charging racial harassment by the police are costing the city too much money and civilian oversight is needed to rein in bad cops. Opponents argue that an oversight board would hamstring police in their law enforcement efforts and that the lawsuits filed against them are frivolous and politically motivated.
Moore, who had strongly advocated forming the oversight board in November, has been silent since then, as have the other council members on the advice of City Attorney Lynn Tracy Nerland due to the current litigation against the city filed by Bay Area advocacy groups on behalf of five African-American women. “Regardless of whether the plaintiffs’ lawyers are directly involved in the effort to initiate debate over police oversight, there is no doubt that they would welcome it and use it to argue that their claims are now somehow valid,” said Nerland.
Later in the meeting, the council discussed changing the format of the periodic Quality of Life forums from that of city updates followed by open discussion to ones that focus on specific topics such as public safety, earthquake preparedness, foreclosures and the environment. Mayor Jim Davis said he wants to avoid ongoing public discussions about issues that are in litigation. Speakers at previous forums have raised the issue of racial harassment by police. Davis and Moore agreed to meet as an ad hoc committee to discuss the format, topics, date and location of the next forum.