Mass Transit:

Actions Needed for the BART Airport Extension

RCED-96-176: Published: May 31, 1996. Publicly Released: Jun 19, 1996.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Bay Area Rapid Transit District's (BART) plans to extend its transit system to the San Francisco International Airport, focusing on the: (1) actions the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) must take before agreeing to fund the project; (2) factors that could affect the project's current schedule and estimated cost; and (3) project's finance plan, particularly assumptions that could affect its viability.

GAO found that: (1) before signing the BART funding grant agreement, FTA must ensure that BART has met all environmental requirements and secured necessary project financing; (2) FTA must also certify that BART environmental and financing plans, and cost estimates are reasonable and determine whether other transportation alternatives have been considered; (3) FTA and BART may not be able to resolve congressional concerns 60 days prior to the signing of the funding agreement, which BART expects to occur in October 1996; (4) BART estimates that its airport extension project will cost $1.167 billion, with construction beginning by October 1996 and line opening in October 2000; (5) the BART construction schedule is ambitious, since environmental reviews may not be completed by October 1996, and expected savings from innovative technology and cost escalations are uncertain; (6) BART expects to obtain $750 million in federal funding, with the remaining $471 million coming from the San Francisco airport, the state, and local sources; (7) BART must develop a borrowing program, since its accelerated construction schedule will outpace its funding; and (8) factors that could affect the finance plan's viability include BART receiving sufficient federal funds each of the next 7 fiscal years, the state allowing BART to use its own revenues as secondary collateral for loans, the airport providing its $200 million contribution, and other state and local contributors capping their BART pledges due to budget constraints.

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