Longtime BART director Nello J. Bianco of Lafayette, died Sunday. He was 78 years old.
The colorful and often controversial Bianco retired from the BART board in 1994 after serving 25 years, citing health concerns and desire to spend more time with his family.
Appointed to BART in 1969, he would be elected five consecutive terms. No other BART director had served as long as Bianco.
“He was incredibly tenacious,” said retired BART public affairs chief Mike Healy. “And he always knew where the votes were. He was a very strong director.”
During Bianco’s tenure, he helped oversee the transit agency’s troubled start-up operations and survived rough labor negotiations.
He opposed charging for parking and led the charge for tougher spending rules on board members after some members abused travel and the use of staff cars.
Bianco is best remembered for his staunch support of the Pittsburg-Bay Point extension, and has called the line one of his proudest accomplishments. He was particularly concerned that extensions to the San Francisco Airport and elsewhere would strip the agency of the money it needed for Contra Costa lines.
“The Pittsburg extension was because of Nello, no question about it,” said friend and former BART Director Dan Richard of Walnut Creek. “It was also because of Nello that I was elected to BART. When I wanted to run, I went to him and he supported me.”
Born on May 29, 1928, in Weed, Bianco moved to Richmond with his family in 1938. A veteran of the Korean War, he and his wife owned and ran the popular Capri Delicatessen in Richmond and El Sobrante.
Bianco is survived by his wife of 53 years, Betty; a daughter, Connie; sons Robert and Gary; 10 grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.
A funeral mass will be held Friday, 9:30 a.m., at Christ the King Church in Pleasant Hill.