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August 5, 2009 > Silicon Valley Bay Area Rapid Transit

Silicon Valley Bay Area Rapid Transit

By Dustin Findley

Staff from the BART to Silicon Valley project held a public outreach meeting in Milpitas on July 21.

The meeting was about giving the public an update on the BART project, what VTA has been working on for the last couple of years, where they see the next couple of years worth of activity on this project. There is very specific information regarding Milpitas.

Carolyn Gonot, Chief in charge of the BART program for the Silicon Valley extension BART in Santa Clara County, presented the following information to the public.

In the long run VTA will own the right of way and actually own the facilities that BART will operate and maintain.

BART addresses increasing growth in travel demand, provides regional connectivity, expands travel options for low income and transit dependent individuals, improves air quality by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, supports local and regional land use plans, and bolsters long term economic development.

Congestion along the corridor between I-880 and I-680 demands options other than driving.

This project would close the 20-mile gap in the railway between the Fremont BART station and the Cal-Train system that comes into Diridon station in Downtown San Jose.

It also provides a transit alternative to reduce auto emissions and promote a healthy environment and air quality.

BART is the transit mode that provides the strongest projected ridership and the greatest travel time savings.

BART is the local stimulus package. This project is $6 billion, one of the largest, if not the largest, transportation infrastructure project on the west coast that's planned over the next 25 years, and that's critical as to how it affects our regional economy.

Benefits include a seemingly seamless connection between the Bay Area's largest cities. BART will provide transportation from Downtown San Jose to San Francisco, to Oakland, and the Livermore Valley area. It will expand all of the travel options for Silicon Valley residents and commuters. It will reduce vehicle miles traveled.

The region has done a lot of land use planning, and the cities have followed up with development plans, particularly in the Fremont-South Bay corridor. The project supports the local and regional plans for the area.

The extension project has significant economic, environmental, quality of life benefits. Enhance regional connectivity, links to complete rail service. There are very few rail services that are going to be constructed, construction starting as soon as September for the BART to Warm Springs extension. This is the one station extension that will connect to the Milpitas station, part of the Silicon Valley extension.

Silicon Valley extension expects to get under construction by 2011. And the high speed rail also plans on being under construction along the Peninsula corridor by 2012.

Silicon Valley BART will integrate with a lot of existing local service: VTA's light rail service, Altamount Commuter Express, Capital Corridor Service, and various buses.

As a result of this project, the Diridon station becomes the largest transportation hub in northern California, meeting with all modes of transportation.

Economic benefits include the creation of thousands of temporary and permanent jobs in the region, affording better access to higher paying jobs. Bringing people into the job rich Santa Clara County, and allowing people access to San Francisco, Oakland, Hayward, Dublin, Pleasanton area as well.

VTA did an extensive economic analysis, and concluded that for every $1 spent on this project, they will see a return on investment of $4 - $10 going back into the region.

The environmental and quality of life benefits primarily translate into reduction of emissions and traffic. Money will actually be saved from the lack of car accidents, also reducing vehicle operating and maintenance costs because of less vehicle miles traveled.

The project features 16 miles of track work beginning from the Warm Springs area of Fremont, 5 miles of tunnel in the downtown area of San Jose, 3 above ground stations at Milpitas, Berryessa, and the Santa Clara station at the end of the line, 3 below ground stations at Alum Rock, Downtown San Jose station, and Diridon.

There will be a maintenance yard near the Santa Clara station. Parking facilities, enough for around 10,000 vehicles throughout the system to park at stations, and 100 plus trains throughout the day.

Travel times are predicted to be less than an hour from Milpitas to San Francisco, San Jose to Oakland. Santa Clara to Milpitas, many commuters commute within the county, will take 16 minutes.

Support for the BART project has been very strong. In 2000 we passed Measure A, a half cent sales tax, by 70% in this county. The 1/2 cent sales tax actually began in April of 2006, and VTA started collecting the revenue. In 2008, last November, California passed a 1/8 cent sales tax by nearly 67%. That is limited and dedicated only to the operation and maintenance of the BART system.

This will only come into play when VTA-BART receives federal funding of at least $750 million. Right now not collecting the 1/8 cents sales tax. The focus is to secure a funding agreement with the federal government.

The board of directors acknowledged that BART was the top Measure A priority out of the projects listed within Measure A.

The support from Silicon Valley businesses and local governments has also been strong, and has helped carry this project through.

The Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) has been very supportive, including Silicon Valley BART in its regional transportation plan.

VTA-BART has a $750 million commitment from the state, received in 2001. They have already been allocated $440 million from that for planning and engineering services for the project. Will collect about $200 million over the next 5 years.

These funding milestones are key to getting this project moving forward. "We can't build it unless we have the money" Gonot said.

VTA is committed to construct the entire 16-mile extension of the BART system into Santa Clara. But the reality is we've had a lot of plummeting sales tax due to the current economic conditions. That is requiring VTA to build the project in phases, starting from the north to the south, Fremont southward.

The first 10 miles of the extension, ending at the Berryessa station, is what VTA is currently calling the current federal project, where they are seeking federal funding.

The final 6 miles will be constructed upon the securing of additional funding.

VTA is currently applying for $850 million in what they call New Starts funding, the federal program for intensive transit capital projects, for the current federal project.

It is also also "aggressively pursuing" additional funding strategies. This could include public-private partnership, high occupancy toll lanes, and federal funding for which VTA?will be eligible.

The first 10 miles will include the Milpitas station, right at Montague Expressway, and the Berryessa station.

BART anticipates construction starting in 2011 and operating by 2018.

In the next 24 months move the project into final design, start looking at the right of way program and acquisitions, and utility relocation.

Weekday riders in 2030 for the Berryessa Extension Project anticipate about 46,000 riders, either coming from Alameda, Contra Costa, or Santa Clara counties. Almost 100,000 riders per day once the extension is complete at Santa Clara.

The entire project is under environmental review through the federal process.

Anticipating a record of decision, where the federal government gives clearance on the environmental on a specific project definition, by February, 2010.

Upon receipt of the record of decision that actually qualifies VTA to start receiving federal funding and going after funding for the project. That allows VTA to move forward on right of way acquisitions, and into final design.

Right now if you go along Union Pacific Railroad corridor, particularly north of Dixon Landing Road, there are freight relocation activities. BART will only be in the Union Pacific corridor that VTA bought, working to separate utilities.

The outreach activities is continuing coordinating with the cities and communities on station area designs. This is critical to how the project works, how people access it.

Clearing the corridor for the BART project, called the Freight Railroad Relocation Project.

There are a few design decisions within the Milpitas area. On Dixon Landing Road there are two areas. BART needs to be grade -separated, either BART will stay at grade or Dixon Landing will stay at grade. BART can go under Dixon Landing Road, or Dixon Landing Road can go under BART. Any input would be welcome.

The Milpitas station has two campus design options. One, the bus transit center is on the west side, parking structure on the east side of the station area.

The other area, east campus, means the structure and the bus transit center is on the east side of the station. And the station right now would now have a pedestrian overcrossing connecting the light rail platform at Capitol over to the BART plaza area.

Affected property owners might want to contact right of way staff about early outreach.

Visit www.vta.org/bart for regularly updated information. Contact the VTA-BART Community Outreach Team at (408) 934-2662 or via email at vtabart@vta.org

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