BART is on track to shuttle passengers to and from Silicon Valley by 2016 after the federal government recommended $900 million in funding for an extension project that has been more than a decade in the making.
The Federal Transit Administration recommended Tuesday that Congress approve the multimillion-dollar grant for BART to add two stations and extend the tracks 10 miles through Milpitas and down to the northern outskirts of San Jose.
Click on the photo at right to see a map of projected routes.
The funding still must be approved by Congress, but backers of the plan say that with the recommendation from the FTA, that is a mere formality, allowing construction on the $2.3 billion project to begin in spring.
“This recommendation is like taking the cork of the sparkling wine, so now we can start pouring,” said Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose, who has been a longtime advocate of the project.
With the allocation, the extension could be open and ready for service by late 2016 — two years earlier than originally projected, said Brandi Childress, spokeswoman from the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, which is managing the project. By 2030, 46,000 passengers are expected to travel on the extension each day.
The two stations on the extension will provide new connections with VTA’s light-rail network, a link that will help lessen traffic congestion and improve transit mobility in the region, said Stephen Wright of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, a business advocacy group.
“This will encourage company growth here because it allows businesses to recruit workers who want to live in different parts of the Bay Area,” said Wright.
Only the 1992 BART expansion to Dublin-Pleasanton — a 12-mile project — is longer than the Silicon Valley project, said agency spokesman Jim Allison.
Unlike past BART expansion projects, the new extension will have operations and maintenance costs covered by a local sales tax. That levy was approved by Santa Clara voters in 2008. With the federal government recommending the $900 million grant this week, the VTA can now begin collecting that tax money, which will also help pay for a new maintenance facility.
“This project will introduce new riders to the system without putting a burden on our operating expenses,” said Bob Franklin, a BART board director.
The funding recommendation was the culmination of a decade-long process, which officially started in 2000 when Santa Clara voters approved a local tax measure supporting potential transit improvements, including BART to San Jose.
There are future plans to extend BART even farther, through an underground tunnel that would link up with three downtown San Jose stations. That project is still waiting on potential funding sources.
BART expansion plans to Silicon Valley:
$2.3 billion Cost of extension
$900 million Grant funding provided for project by federal government
2 Stations included in extension
10 Miles of extension
46,000 Projected number of daily passengers on extension by 2030
13,000 Direct and indirect jobs created by extension
Sources: VTA, BART