BART board vote derails Livermore extension

 BART board members rejected a proposed extension to Livermore by a single vote of 5-4 after more than two hours of passionate public testimony on both sides of the issue. 
Some BART board members said this was the most difficult decision they have had to make.

So many people showed up, they had to open up an overflow room. Many Livermore and Tracy residents left  frustrated, but determined that this would not be the end of the line for the dreams of a rail connection to the Central Valley. 

People on both sides gave testimony in a passionate debate over whether BART  should build a 5.5- mile extension from the Dublin-Pleasanton station to Isabel Avenue in Livermore. 

For many people the project is personal.

They spoke of long commutes and terrible traffic along Interstate 580.

"It used to take one hour from Lathrop to Oakland in the morning. Now, this morning it took me two hours from Tracy Boulevard to Mountain House Boulevard," said Augie Beltran, a Tracy resident.

'The traffic by 2040 is projected to increase 60 percent over the Altamont and 580," said Veronica Vargas of Tracy.

Others said the affordable housing crisis is pushing more people out to the Central Valley and the problem will likely just get worse. 

A BART line would take an estimated 12,000 daily riders off the roads by 2040.

Representatives from labor unions, businesses and the Lawrence Livermore Lab say a rail line is needed for their employees and economic growth 

Some residents say it's a matter of justice because they've been paying taxes with the promise of service.

Critics said BART has secured only $500 million dollars in hand of  the $1.6 billion needed to build the extension

They say  that money is better used  to improve BART's current core system, which has overcrowded trains, delays, and maintenance problems. 

"Why are building out to the suburbs when we could be improving on the core system that people like me who live in Oakland use all the time," said Victoria Fierce of Oakland.

"We could kick-start a second Transbay Tube with that money," said Kevin Burke, A BART rider.

Bart's board voted not to pursue a less expensive bus rapid transit option...That would have served an estimated 3,500 daily riders. 

"A bus simply doesn't compete," said Susanna Chan of Pleasanton.

"It is nothing short of telling the people in the Bay Area's periphery that they are worth less than people who are living in San Francisco," said Patricia Munro, a Livermore resident.

This vote doesn't kill the idea of a rail connection to Livermore. 

BART officials say a newly-formed Tri-Valley San Joaquin Rail Authority will be able to consider a light rail option for the same corridor starting July 1.