• That maximum access for cars, bicycles and pedestrians be provided to the Hillcrest Station.
• That the maintenance tunnel leading out of the Highway 4 median just past the Hillcrest Station be designed to allow for expansion of the tunnel to accommodate eBART trains if it’s decided in the future to extend eBART out of the median.
• That BART officials support the city’s effort to get a new interchange built on Highway 4 at Philips Lane in order to provide more access to the Hillcrest Station.
• That BART officials hire East County residents to perform at least a quarter of the eBART construction work.
• That planning begin on extending eBART beyond Hillcrest, probably 2½ miles southeast in the Highway Bypass median to Laurel Road in Oakley. BART projections show that the extension would result in a 40-percent ridership increase for eBART. The council’s resolution states that “the Hillcrest area is not an ideal site for a long-term end-of-the-line station.”
The last request resulted in a debate between Councilwoman Martha Parsons and BART Board Member Joel Keller. Parsons asked for a date when the planning and environmental approval work would begin on the eBART extension.
But Keller said that while the extension is important, it would cost $2-3 million to hire the necessary consultants, who would then need 18-24 months to complete their work. “We are working to try to identify those funds,” he said. “We will do it before (eBART to Hillcrest is completed in) 2015. But $2-3 million is a significant amount of funds.”
Parsons responded that the winning construction bid for an eBART transfer platform at the Bay Point BART Station came in at $64 million, nearly 50 percent under the engineering estimate. She asked that some of that savings be used to fund the extension planning.
Keller said, “We will look at every source of funding. We are committed to doing that. But the project is still underfunded, and we need to ensure we have the resources to move forward. We want to build the system with a station at Hillcrest that’s operational. That’s our first priority. Extension beyond Hillcrest is sensible. We still have to identify those funds.”
“I would like that to be the utmost top priority,” said Parsons. “Because right now where our station is, is going to be a mess. If we don’t have access to BART off of Laurel, it will remain a mess.”
Keller agreed that an extension to Laurel is needed, noting that the possibility of increasing the number of eBART riders by 40 percent at a cost of $100 million makes it one of the best values in mass transit. “I don’t think anyone else in the region can make that claim,” he said. “We are committed to doing that. The funding issues are a little more difficult. In concept I agree with you 100 percent.”
City consultant Victor Carniglia jumped into the debate to say that it’s possible to start preliminary planning on the extension without incurring the full $2-3 million cost – a compromise that seemed to satisfy Parsons and Keller.
Antioch resident Fred Hoskins criticized city officials for even considering eBART, which is a light-rail, diesel-powered version of traditional BART, when East County residents have paid for BART since 1962. “Building an “e system” and converting it later (to BART) would be a huge waste of our taxpayers’ money,” he said.
Councilman Reggie Moore responded that there is not enough funding to provide BART, which would cost an additional $700-800 million. “What I am hearing from the vast majority of my constituents is ‘I want relief today,’” he said. “We cannot build our way out of the traffic congestion we have. Spending on highways is not enough. We need an alternative mode of transportation out here, removing hundreds, if not thousands, of cars a day will have a positive improvement on our region. It’s the right thing to do. We have a project that is so badly needed.”