VTA approves BART contract for SJ expansion

December 8, 2011 6:02:22 PM PST
Transit officials have been talking about bringing BART to the South bay for years. On Thursday, transit officials took major action toward making that happen.

The winning bid for the BART extension contract came in at $77 million under budget and promises to deliver ahead of schedule, as early as 2016.

Thursday's big news has been a long time coming.

"(I've) been living here in the Bay Area all my life, and just been waiting until the day that BART gets to San Jose," said San Francisco BART rider Angelo Ibanez.

There was a huge round of applause when the Valley Transportation Authority board unanimously approved a $772 million contract to design and construct the first phase of the BART expansion.

The first 10 mile stretch will go from Fremont to Berryessa; the second 6.1 mile stretch into Downtown San Jose and Santa Clara will come later, but the first hurdle is now clear.

"We're moving forward with the construction," said VTA General Manager Michael Burns. "We awarded the construction contract and every expectation is that we'll have groundbreaking early in 2012."

Crews are already doing some preliminary work and the four year contract for phase one will create an estimated 13,000 direct and indirect jobs.

"We're going to see people out there in construction," said VTA board member Rose Herrera. "We're going to see carpenters; we're going to see electricians. We're going to see our local people get back to work and doing a project that's very critical infrastructure."

Santa Clara County voters have long-supported the $2.1 billion BART extension by approving two sales tax measures -- one in 2000 and the other in 2008. That local funding all but guarantees $900 million in federal money early next year.

"When you have visionary voters like we do in this county who are willing to reach into their own wallets to match their words, it makes it pretty sweet to see it come to reality," said Carl Guardino with the Silicon Valley Leadership Group.

"It's going to be so convenient," said Fremont BART rider Joanne Nunez. "Too bad they couldn't build it faster."

It is finally coming, and the next key milestone will be securing the $900 million in federal grant money. That could happen as early as February with groundbreaking as soon as March of next year.

If the construction goes as planned, the new BART track will be ready for use by 2016 or early 2017.


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