East Bay Rep. Barbara Lee and U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx joined local leaders at the groundbreaking of the East Bay's first bus rapid transit line on Friday.
Foxx called BRT, which will stretch 9.5 miles from downtown Oakland to San Leandro, a "remarkable" project, especially considering the challenges in 21st century transportation planning like population growth, climate change and new technology.
"When you deploy this bus rapid transit, it is a connector, it is a lifeline, it is a job creator," he said. "It is a system that is going to radically change the quality of life for so many."
BRT will include 12 curbside stations and 21 center median stations primarily along International Boulevard and East 14th Street. Transit officials say a new dedicated BRT bus-only lane and green-light priority for BRT buses will allow them to operate at least every seven minutes during peak hours.
"BRT is going to serve some of our most diverse and low-income neighborhoods," Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said. "East Oakland residents now know they have reliable and affordable transportation to our region's job centers and education institutions."
BRT Director David Wilkins estimates the project will create between 150 and 200 jobs. Construction goals for the project call for 50 percent of the work to be done by Oakland and San Leandro residents, 20 percent to be done by apprentices learning a trade and 25 percent of apprentice hours to be committed to disadvantaged workers.
"[These goals are] going to ensure that disadvantaged residents in the local communities where this project is being built are going to have a pathway into careers in good union construction jobs," said Andreas Cluver, Building and Construction Trades Council of Alameda County secretary-treasurer.
Those involved with the project hope these efforts will prevent BRT from potentially displacing existing low-income residents.
"If you're giving working people good jobs, I think that you're going to find that a lot more people will be able to afford to stay," San Leandro Mayor Pauline Cutter said.
BRT construction is expected to be completed in November 2017, and Wilkins said service should begin in spring 2018.