A lawsuit challenging funding for BART’s planned rail extension to the Warm Springs district in Fremont is the latest friction in a long-running dispute about how to expand public transit in the Bay Area.
On one side, some transit rebels say expanding BART is the wrong way to go, and wrong thing to do with sales taxes and toll money.
“Too many people have drunk the BART Kool-Aid and become enamored with its technology,” said David Schonbrunn, president of the Transportation Solutions Defense and Education Fund, a non-profit group.
He says BART is too expensive, and its highly specific car and track technology is impractical to link with other types of rail service outside the current BART system. His group, called Transdef, has argued that instead of investing in building BART to Warms Springs and eventually to San Jose, transit leaders ought to bring California’s high-speed rail system through the Altamont Pass on a path along the Highway 680 corridor to San Jose.
Transdef joined with two former BART directors to allege in a lawsuit that $313 million in regional bridge tolls and Alameda County sales tax money was allocated illegally to the $890 BART Warm Springs extension. The offenders, according to the lawsuit, were the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and the Alameda County Transportation Improvement Agency.
The lawsuit was first reported on line in the Transbay Blog.
On the other side, MTC and Alameda County leaders have lined up behind BART, saying a 5.4 mile-long-rail extension to Warm Springs in Fremont is a good way to move commuters, cut congestion and pollution.
MTC officials defend their funding plan as legal. “Look, they (Transdef) have made it abundantly clear they oppose the rail extension,” said Randy Rentschler, a MTC spokesman.
Because BART is getting ready to soon award the contract for the first phase of the Warm Springs extension, the Transdef lawsuit is due for a speedy first hearing in court.
As part of the lawsuit, Transdef is fighting an MTC decision to fund the Warm Springs BART extension with money reallocated away from a plan to build an electric train line across on old rail bridge paralleling the Dumbarton Bridge to carry commuters between Silicon Valley and the East Bay.
Alameda County Superior Court Judge Frank Roesch is scheduled at 9 a.m. March 20 to hear arguments on Transdef’s request for a injunction that could delay or block the Warms Spring project.
Schonbrunn’s group has a separate lawsuit against the California High Speed Rail Authority for planning to bring the bullet-train to the Bay Area via the Pacheco Pass route, rather than through Altamont Pass and along the I-680 corridor.
The lawyers will be busy preparing arguments on how to expand public transit.