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Construction begins on BART’s extension to the South Bay

Construction Begins On BART’s Extension To The South Bay

Thirty years in the making and stalled by escalating costs and repeated delays, construction on BART’s extension to Silicon Valley finally started Friday.

The massive nearly $13 billion project includes building a 6-mile BART line from the Berryessa Transit Center in North San Jose through downtown and west to Santa Clara, adding four stations along the way.

“Transit connectivity creates opportunity,’’ San Jose Mayor Matt Mahan said Friday at a groundbreaking ceremony at the site of the future Santa Clara station. “What would San Francisco be without Muni or New York without the subway? Or London without the Tube? People 100 years from now will be saying the same thing about Silicon Valley.”

When the line opens in 2037, officials said riders on the BART system will save an average of 30 minutes for a 50-mile commute compared to driving.

The Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) is designing and building the South Bay extension. BART will operate and maintain the line.

Construction on the extension started on Brokaw Road in Santa Clara — which runs between the Caltrain station and San Jose International Airport — and officials said businesses in the area should expect dust and disruptions.

Local officials have secured $15 million to help mitigate some of the construction disruptions, said Cindy Chavez, a Santa Clara County supervisor and chair of the VTA board. The budget will provide marketing, signs and technical assistance to help businesses during major construction. There is also a grant program to provide some impacted businesses up to $10,000 per year.

Chavez said the BART project will create 75,000 jobs, most of them union jobs with good pay and benefits.

“That is amazing and really worth this investment,’’ she said,

In March, the VTA tacked on an additional $600 million to its cost estimate for a total project cost of $12.75 billion.

VTA is seeking federal government funding of more than $6 billion and could know as early as next month how much money the feds will provide. That money is expected to cover roughly half the cost, with the remainder funded by state and local dollars that already have been allocated.

The San Jose BART extension was originally set to open in 2026 with an initial price tag of $4.4 billion. The extension is now expected to take more than 12 years to build.

A rapid rise in material, labor and equipment costs, especially during the pandemic, and a shortage of skilled labor in the Bay Area has led to cost overruns and delays, officials said.

Dozens of elected officials, community members and transit leaders attended the groundbreaking ceremony, lauding the partnerships that have been forged over decades of work on the transit project.

“This project is a marathon with the baton being passed over the many years, but it’s never been dropped,’’ said state Assemblymember Ash Kalra, a San Jose Democrat. “We are going to be pushing until this is done.”

Local officials took part in a Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority ceremony marking the start of construction on the BART SV Phase II extension to Silicon Valley on Friday, June 14, 2024. The project, to open in 2037, includes building a 6-mile BART line from the Berryessa Transit Center in North San Jose through downtown and west to Santa Clara, adding four stations along the way. (Photo courtesy VTA) 

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The start of construction comes four years after the addition of BART service from the Warm Springs station in Fremont through Milpitas and ending at Berryessa Station in North San Jose. Phase 1 included two new stations at the Milpitas Transit Center and Berryessa Transit Center.

For Phase II, VTA will build a single-bore tunnel that differs from BART’s decades-long approach of two smaller side-by-side tunnels. Critics say the single-bore tunnel is a more costly, risky and environmentally damaging alternative to twin bores. Some opponents also have slammed the single-bore design for driving up costs.

But VTA says the twin-bore method of construction involves large excavations to build the underground stations, which disturbs the vast network of existing utilities underground and forces extensive utility relocations.

Last year, VTA bought a massive tunnel-boring machine, which has been described as a “ mechanical earthworm,” for $76 million to excavate and remove more soil at project sites.

Despite the delays, the bore controversy and the inflated costs, officials on Friday said it was a day to celebrate.

“You can’t have a seamless Bay Area unless you connect the Silicon Valley to the rest of the Bay,” Kalra said, “and that will not be a reality until this project is done.”

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Construction begins on BART’s extension to the South Bay