BART extension measure failing

November 9, 2008 12:26:37 PM PST
The vote count continues but supporters for a South Bay Bart extension appear to be throwing in the towel Sunday morning. Measure B is just a quarter of a percent short of the two-thirds it needs to pass.

There were 189,000 more yes votes than no votes for Measure B. But even with about 42,000 more votes to count supporters have begun to accept that the sales tax is not going to pass.

" Given how far away we are at this point, which is of course very close to victory, but not very many votes left to count, it seems unlikely we'll reach the two-thirds threshold that's required to pass this 1/8th of a cent tax," said spokesman Phil Yost.

Measure B supporters like Yost feel the high number of yes votes shows BART is wanted in San Jose even though it will likely go down in defeat.

"To us that message is, 'We want BART. It's really popular. We want it to come here.'"

Opponents disagree saying the defeat shows people want the Valley Transportation Authority to look at other options.

"The most important thing is let's find a plan we can do with the money we have," said No on Measure B supporter Greg Perry.

Perry says that includes a more conventional and cheaper rail system like Caltrain. He says the money is already there to connect San Jose to Fremont's BART station.

"The goal we both agree on is trying to get rail around the Bay. And the question is, is the way to do that to build half a BART line, or to take the cheaper alternative and use a conventional rail and build all the way from Fremont, all the way to San Jose which we can do with the existing funds," said Perry.

The money generated from Measure B would have paid for operating costs and also qualified the project for $750 million from the federal government. It would have extended BART from the Fremont station all the way to the Caltrain station near San Jose International Airport.

BART supporters say a sales tax passed in 2000 and $760 million in state money can pay for construction to bring BART into Milpitas or the Berryessa area in northern San Jose.

San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed says," The next step will be to get it through Fremont in Milpitas to connect to the Santa Clara light rail system that we have at Montague."

Reed supported Measure B as a VTA board member and says its defeat will increase costs, delay the project and in the end voters may be asked to pass a tax increase once again.

"It's certainly possible that it would come back to the voters in the future with some other kind of a tax to support it. That remains to be figured out."

Not stopping in San Jose could cut $2 billion from the $6.1 billion project.

The VTA is scheduled to hold a post Measure B workshop on Friday.


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