OAKLAND – Voters in San Francisco, Alameda and Contra Costa counties will be asked in November to decided if they want to pay more than $1 billion for a seismic retrofit project designed to keep the transportation systems running after a major earthquake.
At their meeting in Oakland this morning, the BART board of directors moved to place a $1.05 billion general bond on the upcoming ballot, saying that securing BART against earthquakes cannot wait.
According to the directors, the consequences of having the transit system unavailable after a temblor would have repercussions throughout the Bay Area.
Especially essential is the transbay tube, which stretches underwater across the bay on a gravel-filled trench. Earlier this year, a report concluded that the tube could be affected by liquefaction during a major earthquake.
The proposed bond would go first and foremost toward upgrading the system's core, which is defined as the area between the Berkeley Hills tunnel and Daly City. The remaining money would go to pay for safety retrofits throughout the entire system.
If voters approve the BART bond, property owners would pay $23 per year for each $100,000 that their property is assessed. Building would begin in 2004 and last an estimated ten years.
The adopted bond proposal is smaller than other options that BART officials had considered. One proposal asked for $1.5 billion to completely retrofit the entire original system.
Directors had also considered asking for an additional $200 million for post-Sept. 11 security measures such as security cameras and detectors for biological or chemical weapons.
To be successful, the bond needs approval from two-thirds of the voters in the three counties.
One San Francisco group that is supporting an affordable housing bond initiative on the same ballot urged the BART directors not to move forward.
Marco Montenegro, spokesman of the group Homes for the City, said that having the BART bond proposal on the same ballot might dissuade some San Franciscans from voting for the $250 million housing bond.
"As the economy continues to slide, gathering a two-thirds vote will be a difficult task to say the least,'' Montenegro said. "Please avoid putting another bond measure on the November ballot at this late a date.''
BART Director Joel Keller, however, said that the transit system's seismic safety needs to be addressed immediately.
“There are always going to be competing interests when you've got a bond issue,” Keller said. “But I have no question that we have to move forward today.'”