News

Battle heating up over BART-extension measure

Voters to decide on Measure B on Nov. 4

As the November election draws closer, the fight is heating up over the proposed Santa Clara County sales tax increase that would allow an extension of the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) system to be built from Fremont to San Jose.

Measure B is a one-eighth-cent sales tax to operate, maintain and improve a 16-mile extension of BART through the South Bay. The tax must garner two-thirds approval to pass, and will only be collected if matching state and federal funds are obtained, according to the county Registrar of Voters. If passed, the tax will be in effect for 30 years.

San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed said that the measure tax comes out to around $13 a year per resident.

"If we want the Silicon Valley to remain an innovation center, then from time to time we are going to have to invest in its infrastructure," Reed said. "It's a huge investment in our future, and it will create many badly needed jobs in a poor economy," he added.

The California Transportation Commission voted Sept. 25 to approve $239 million in state transportation funds for the extension of BART to the South Bay.

Funding will be used to complete engineering for the 16-mile extension, according to the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority. The authority has already purchased the right of way for the tracks that will run through Milpitas, San Jose and Santa Clara and now the state money, which in all totals $760 million, can be used for project engineers and other areas, VTA Senior Policy Advisor Jim Lawson said.

With the California commission funding, the last step toward beginning the project is the sales tax increase that will maintain the completed rail system, according to Reed.

VTA Executive Director Michael Burns said the rails will be state-of-the-art, with grade separation and full automation. The project received federal environmental approval in 2007.

Voters approved the general plan for the BART extension in 2000.

Opponents to the measure claim VTA has been promising this and other transit projects for years without fulfillment, and has starved other transit systems to help pave the way for the BART extension. The Santa Clara County Civil Grand Jury called it an "over promising of projects to voters," according to http://SmartVoter.org .

Other websites that oppose the tax, such as http://NoVTATax.org , list organizations and public officials opposed to the tax, such as the BayRail Alliance, VTA Riders' Union, county supervisor Blanca Alvarado and San Jose Councilman Pete Constant.

Officials are optimistic about the measure passing, but in the event that it does not, Lawson said that the VTA will still "have ownership of a transportation corridor" and would possibly use the land for other forms of transit.

— Bay City News Service

Comments

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Greg K
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 16, 2008 at 11:02 am

We need a comprehensive public transit plan that funds all transit systems (BART, Caltrain, light rail, busses) simultaneously. We need all these systems, but funding them one at a time (or taking money from some to fund others) is extremely confusing.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Why another Rail Right-of-way ?
a resident of another community
on Oct 16, 2008 at 2:52 pm

The push by BART into Santa Clara is another step towards the vision of "ringing the Bay".

With the Santa Clara/San Jose light rail system in place, and with Cal Train/SP running the length of the Peninsula, why is another rail system being developed ?

The Peninsula has a highly accessible and functional and under-utilized rail system already operating within it's limited geography. Where does the ridership come from to service this newly proposed system? Or, perhaps because of the limited ridership - it'll simply be our taxes subsidizing a second concrete, razor wire encompassed eyesore slicing through the Peninsula.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 16, 2008 at 2:56 pm

I am with Greg on this.

Money spent on transit while it is still divided into BART, Caltrain, VTA, SamTrans, and the rest, is still going to do nothing to give us overall regional provincial public transport. We need one authority and one oversight and one vision.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 17, 2008 at 6:09 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

Grade separation, electrification with modern HV overhead and relaying BART with standard gauge wold buy us the most for our transit dollar. I would like to see the roads made public right of way open to any operator, but not in my lifetime.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Evan
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 17, 2008 at 10:44 am

The top priority should be the electrification of Caltrain. That is what will bring the most benefit to the most people, for the lowest cost.

If this can happen AS WELL AS the BART extension, by all means, extend BART. But electrification of Caltrain could transform transportation along the SF>SJ corridor, and it should come first.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Hypocrites
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Oct 17, 2008 at 10:56 am

Kishimoto/Klein are against it---that means a yes vote from me. Kind of hypocritical of our council members to talk all the time about climate change and public transportation, but then to come out against thi smeasure.


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