Editor’s note: We’re taking Monday off. Enjoy the long weekend and see you back here Tuesday!
With concerns mounting about the reaction to the verdict in the Mehserle trial, BART held an official swearing-in ceremony at a special board meeting yesterday, replete with visits from local politicians, including former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown. Chief Kenton Rainey, the former Fairfield police chief, was lauded by numerous public speakers as a man of faith who inspires calm and unites those with whom he works.
Reverend Amos Brown of the Third Baptist Church said he was pleased with the process for selecting Chief Rainey and said he knew Rainey was the perfect choice for the position when he heard him first speak. "That’s the man the times demand."
BART Director Tom Radulovich praised the process undertaken to select Rainey, calling it "one of the most open and perhaps one of the most rigorous that we’ve ever taken. "
"It speaks to where policing is at BART. We really want to be viewed as one of the finest police forces in this state, in this country. We want to distinguish ourselves in terms of being open to the community, all the voices in the community and all the people we serve," said Radulovich.
Board Director Thomas Keller made the most heartfelt statement, breaking off at the end in tears and unable to finish, "One of the qualities that I think set Ken Rainey apart from other candidates, he’s a unifier, he brings people together and that’s what BART needs."
At a ceremony on a sun-filled patio at BART’s headquarters, Rainey socialized with board directors and discussed the challenges he would face on the job. When asked what he looked forward to the most in his first year, Ramsey told Streetsblog he wanted to get beyond the Mehserle trial and get to know his staff and board of directors.
"There’s a lot more work that still needs to be done," he said.
When the board got back to business, staff presented the alignment alternatives for the Livermore extension and requested the board approve the option that extended BART into downtown Livermore and up to Vasco Road.
Option 2b was added to the environmental review process after feedback from community meetings and negotiations with Livermore’s political set.
The extension would originate at the current Dublin/Pleasanton Station and continue along the I-580 median to Airway Boulevard just west of the Portola Avenue interchange. At that point the train would go underground to a new Livermore Station adjacent to the existing Altamont Commuter Express (ACE) Livermore Station, then proceed east at-grade until it reached a Vasco Road terminus adjacent to the Vasco Road ACE Station (empty trains could continue on to the Vasco Road Yards beyond the station).
Among the number benefits to the alignment BART expects the Portola/Vasco option to add 31,900 new daily riders, reduce 868,370 daily vehicle miles traveled and reduce 597,138 daily pounds of greenhouse gas emissions, the best totals of any of the ten routes studied in the EIR. The station location will provide connections to the ACE and potentially High Speed Rail.
On the downside, option 2b is the most expensive, expected to cost more than $3.8 billion, of which very little funding has already been secured. The alignment could also require taking portions or all of 81 private properties through eminent domain.
Unlike extensions such as the Oakland Airport Connector (OAC), however, the public comments and board director reaction turned into what Board Chair James Fang dubbed a "massive love fest."
Livermore Mayor Marshall Kamena lauded BART staff for listening to local concerns and adding a new route based on feedback. "Today marks the most significant milestone to making BART to Livermore a reality," said Kamena.
Nancy Bankhead, who was born and raised in Livermore, said her mother moved to the city in the 1940s and paid the extra BART tax for 30 years without ever seeing the result of it. "I want to know what my taxpayer dollars are doing. We need BART to downtown," she said.
Even Director Radulovich, who has registered serious concerns with BART’s funding of extensions at the cost of core capacity and has been a staunch opponent of the OAC, gushed about the process and the outcome of the Livermore extension.
This alternative "furthers a lot of objectives the city of Livermore has: downtown revitalization, creating livable communities, protecting their orchards, vineyards and ranches from sprawl," said Radulovich. "This is the alternative that not only has the greatest environmental benefit, but creates the most value."
He went further to say that the process of working with the community should become the standard for other BART projects. While congratulating BART planner Malcolm Quinn, Radulovich said, "this has been great staff work. We’d love to see this caliber of staff work go toward looking at [infill] opportunities as well, so that every community that has opportunities to enjoy BART service, or better BART service, is able to partake of it."