Vote expected on SJ BART extension

September 25, 2008 7:01:54 PM PDT
The plan to bring BART to San Jose got a significant boost Thursday. The California State Transportation Commission coughed-up $238 million for the project, but the BART extension still faces some opposition and a critical vote in November.

In the last 48 hours the decade long effort to extend BART to Silicon Valley picked up $330 million. The money came from the California Transportation Commission and the Bay Area's Metropolitan Transportation Commission.

"Moving ahead with BART is a big statement by the people of this region that it's our future and it's not going to be just automobiles. It's going to be a different way to travel," says San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed.

The proposed 16.3 mile extension from Fremont to Silicon Valley would cost $6.1 billion. There would be a total of six stops completing what many call a ring of rail around the bay.

Supporters say it would attract an estimated 98,000 new riders each weekday and argue less expensive transit options would not serve the masses.

"Unlike bus and light rail BART has fewer stops and it's a much more efficient way to get people from point A to point B," says Dennis Cima, with the Silicon Valley Leadership Group.

In November, Santa Clara County voters will decide if they want to approve a 1/8 cent sales tax increase to pay for the maintenance of the BART extension.

One of the 12 members of the Valley Transportation Agency Board says she opposes the tax and the BART extension. Yoriko Kishimoto says it costs too much and siphons money away from other transit projects.

"I can't look people in the eye and say this is the right way to spend scarce transportation dollars," says Kishimoto.

In this tough economy, the area's Chamber of Commerce hesitated to support one more tax, but did decide to back Measure B.

"Sometimes you just have to step forward and look at the bigger picture, what is the goal we want for our community, and go for it," says Pat Dando, the CEO of the San Jose Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce.

Two thirds of voters must support Measure B for it to pass. If approved, the tax wouldn't kick in until federal funding had been secured.


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