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June 22, 2004 > BART to the South Bay

BART to the South Bay

The Missing Link

by BART Director Tom Blalock

Disturbing! That's how I describe recent newspaper articles bashing the proposed BART extension from Fremont's Warm Springs district to Milpitas, San Jose and Santa Clara.

As a licensed civil engineer who's played a major role in planning the development of cities such as Sunnyvale, Mountain View and Fremont over the last 40 years, I know more than just a thing or two about the important role of transit in the Bay Area.

The news articles claim the nearly $4 billion extension isn't worth the price tag after using one line from one small portion of the recently released Draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR). One of the news articles said, "southbound traffic through the Fremont-Milpitas corridor - the main choke point the extension is supposed to relieve - would decrease by 753 vehicles." While the statement may be accurate, the impression that it leaves is not. Why? Read the fine print. The "753 vehicles" figure represents one hour of the morning commute. But if you read the rest of the EIR, you'll find out that BART would remove 25,500 daily vehicle trips from our roads during the morning and afternoon commutes.

More importantly, we cannot forget that the EIR says the BART extension through Warm Springs and into the South Bay will carry some 84,000 riders in the year 2025. But that doesn't mean the freeways will be empty - what it does mean is that there will be more room on the freeways for other people to use. Right now, there are over 6 million Bay Area residents, but by the year 2025 that number will jump another 1.5 million. Given the lack of land to expand freeways, BART is now the only major capacity improvement planned for the population explosion. If you think traffic is bad now, just think of how much worse it's going to be in the years to come. Clearly, we must build BART if we want to keep traffic and the economy moving.

I moved to Mountain View in 1938 when there were no gridlocked freeways. But life sure has changed dramatically. Since then, the orchards in the South Bay have had to give way to the current population. Now, it's time for us to provide for future residential and job growth. While I prefer the orchards and farms that were there then, I and other city planners know that in order for the cities of the South Bay to not only survive but thrive, we have to convince current residents of the South Bay to provide for tomorrow's population.

Clearly, when you look at the EIR in context, BART is the missing link to our growing transportation needs. Let's not let the agenda of short-sighted news articles cloud what the facts of the EIR clearly lay out - a path to build BART from Warm Springs to the South Bay.

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