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March 10, 2010 > Milpitas BART station design gets go-ahead

Milpitas BART station design gets go-ahead

By Steve Wyant

Milpitas BART Station, expected to begin carrying passengers in 2018, passed a critical design review by Milpitas City Council, paving the way for the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) to begin the next phase of the project with the Federal Transit Administration (FTA).

VTA has worked to meet criteria set by the City of Milpitas while providing necessary ridership and traffic performance metrics as anticipated through 2030. An issue is where to put parking.

Milpitas Planning & Neighborhood Services Director James Lindsay presented the original BART Station Transit Center plan of 2008 to Council on March 2 and compared it to VTA's proposed new plan. The core difference is the overall footprint. Milpitas would prefer to keep the footprint as small as possible to allow for a more pleasing environment for surrounding development and mitigate the need for eminent domain in acquiring land for the station. In plans developed by Milpitas Planning & Neighborhood Services in 2008, a parking structure would be erected on a west end "triangle" of the site, with bus and drop-off service provided between the parking structure and the station.

Subsequently, VTA has determined that ridership, linking bus routes and light rail services at the station, will be higher than originally anticipated. For that reason, VTA proposed a larger parking structure to the east of the station. In the most recent Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), it is estimated that by 2030, passengers transferring from BART to bus and light rail services could reach 3,200 for each morning and evening commute period.

Known as the BART Silicon Valley Project, it is an extension of the BART line from the future Warm Springs station in Fremont. The 16-mile extension is slated to continue through Milpitas and San Jose, ending in the City of Santa Clara. When fully completed it will have six stations (Milpitas, four in San Jose, and Santa Clara) with five miles of the route underground through downtown San Jose.

Due to plummeting local sales tax revenue, the project will be built in phases. The first 10 miles will serve stations in Milpitas and Berryessa in East San Jose. Construction of the remaining six miles will begin once funding is secured for that phase.

After Lindsay presented City Staff's argument in favor of the original 2008 plan, Chief Silicon Valley Rapid Transit Program Officer Carolyn Gonot presented VTA's proposed plan for a larger station to Council. She outlined that due to building only the first 10 miles, having just two stations initially in Santa Clara County will impact ridership patterns.

"That changed the dynamic since the Transit Area Plan was done by the City of Milpitas" she stated.

The station will be located at the southeast corner of Montague Expressway and Capitol Avenue. In addition to the BART station, South Milpitas Boulevard will be extended to wrap around the south side of the station, ending at Capitol Avenue. It is expected that 21,000 riders will travel through the station daily.

"The Transit Area Plan envisioned a complete renovation and redevelopment of this area into a high-density, mixed-use neighborhood that would really capitalize and support the large investment in public infrastructure in the area," stated Lindsay. "Buildings could go up to 20 stories with special permission from the Planning Commission."

The area surrounding the station has some of the highest density zoning in the city. As for the east side of the station, the City would prefer to develop that parcel with housing.

Vice Mayor McHugh asked Gonot which plan would move forward "if there's no reconciliation between the two agencies?" Gonot responded that while VTA is looking for the support of Milpitas, the transportation agency must meet the FTA's requirements for the station by 2030. McHugh wondered if the city's original submission would be irrelevant. According to Gonot, the city's desires had shaped VTA's plan to provide the smallest, feasible footprint.

The City Council voted 3-2 in favor of VTA's larger-footprint plan (Yes: Mayor Livengood, Vice Mayor McHugh, Councilmember Polanski; No: Councilmembers Gomez and Giordano).

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