Grand Jury: voters should decide on BART south of SFO

Article published in January 1997

Peninsula Rail 2000 home page | COST home page
Caltrain issues update | Online newsletter | Give Us Feedback!
CalTrain downtown SF extension | Electrification of CalTrain

In its report for 1996, the San Mateo County Grand Jury recommended that voters be allowed to decide whether BART can be built south of San Francisco International Airport. Their recommendation raises concerns similar to those of local city officials who aim to place this issue before San Mateo County voters by the next election. (See BART-Millbrae ballot initiative proposed.)

The grand jury's report cites ballot initiatives approved by voters in past elections which authorized construction of BART as far as the airport and specified that voter approval be sought for funding and routing of further BART extensions.

The report cites Measure A approved in 1985 which authorized the extension from Daly City to Colma, and Measure K in 1987 which authorized construction of BART to a station south of Colma and near SFO airport. Advisory Measure B, approved in 1992, called for negotiations with the BART district to arrive at a contract for extension of BART throughout San Mateo County. Measure B specified that such a contract should be subject to voter approval. In other words, any extension further than those authorized by Measures A and K should be put to a vote.

Backers of an initiative to allow such a vote assert that the current BART project is longer and considerably more expensive than what was presented to voters in 1987 prior to approval of Measure K. The extension includes an additional station in Millbrae two miles south of SFO airport. Current estimates put the cost for the entire project at $1.17 billion, compared to the $498 million estimate widely publicized in 1987. The extension from SFO to Millbrae adds about one-third to the current cost estimate for building only as far as SFO. San Mateo County transit sales tax money will be used to pay a portion of the construction costs and all of BART operations and maintenance costs within the county. The farther BART extends, the greater the county's financial obligation.

County supervisors opposed to a ballot measure on the present BART project to Millbrae nevertheless praised the grand jury. Supervisor Mike Nevin, quoted in newspaper articles after the release of the grand jury's report, touted the new recommendation as a total reversal of the position taken in the previous grand jury report in 1995.

In the 1995 report, the grand jury recommended that San Mateo County terminate its involvement in the entire BART extension south of Colma and refocus its efforts on upgrading and expanding CalTrain. Nevin (backed by Supervisor Tom Huening and State Senator Quentin Kopp) slammed the 1995 recommendations, citing the grand jury's errors in terminology, and called for reform of the grand jury system. Kopp called for an investigation into the authenticity of the report. The investigation failed to identify authors of any part of the report outside the nine-member grand jury.

In articles on the 1996 report in the San Francisco Chronicle and San Jose Mercury News, Nevin asserted that the grand jury is not recommending that voters decide on the proposed BART extension to Millbrae. Instead he expressed the belief that the grand jury called for a vote on future extensions beyond Millbrae. Proponents of the inclusion of Millbrae in the current extension have previously argued that voters authorized the extension as far as Millbrae because Millbrae is near the airport and Measure K stipulated "a location near the San Francisco International Airport."

However, John Mills, head of the grand jury, was quoted in the Mercury News: "The voters never gave the county authority to extend BART south of the airport."

Does the proposed BART extension go south of the airport? See maps of proposed SF and SFO-Millbrae extensions for Caltrain and BART, respectively (24k GIF); and BART's proposed routing at SFO airport (37k GIF).

Please give us your feedback on this site!

Send e-mail to the webmaster

Last updated: January 7, 1998

Peninsula Rail 2000

Back to Online newsletter menu

Peninsula Rail 2000 home page