A number of people noted that this project has had several near-death experiences. For example, federal funding came through only one month ago and six years from now, the Berryessa right of way is finally going to bring BART to San Jose.
There was no lack of enthusiasm for this historic groundbreaking. Ten years of wishing, hoping, and campaigning to get taxpayers, the state and the federal government to pay for the $2.3 billion project. A key supporter was Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, who put pressure on Washington to chip in $900 million.
"The people of Santa Clara were willing to raise their sales tax, and that really produced a very high percent of local funds. And with those local funds, it wasn't too difficult then to go to the federal government," said Feinstein.
A projected 23,000 riders will use the Berryessa extension into San Jose on a daily basis when it opens in 2018. The 10-mile project will connect to a new Warm Springs BART Station in Fremont. Tunnel work is already underway.
This was a day to celebrate at a pre-groundbreaking luncheon to thank the many politicians and business leaders who provided key support. But there's more to be done. Officials still want to extend BART to Downtown San Jose, a six-mile run from the Berryessa extension. Federal transportation administrator Peter Rogoff says funding will be a challenge. He also worries about BART's 40-year-old cars -- the oldest in the nation.
"That's the service we're extending down to San Jose. We're celebrating that today and it's certainly something to celebrate. We've been waiting decades to make it happen, but we also need to realize that we need to use available tax dollars to reinvest in what we have in order to keep transit reliable and desirable," said Rogoff.
There's no shortage of optimism.
"I'd just like to say thanks to the voters and the taxpayers for what you've done. This is just the beginning of the 'Yes we can' agenda," said Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose.
Getting BART to San Jose will trigger some major construction activity in Fremont, Milpitas and San Jose, including demolition of buildings, relocation of utility lines, and occasional street closures.