The Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) board of directors on Thursday gave the green light for a long-planned sales-tax measure to go on the November ballot. The half-cent, 30-year tax is expected to raise up to $6.5 billion to fund a BART extension to San Jose, as well as a host of other transit upgrades throughout the South Bay.
Among the listed projects, the measure would provide $700 million for Caltrain grade separation projects throughout Santa Clara County. These costly projects will become crucial in the coming years as the rail corridor is electrified and upgraded to accommodate the California High Speed Rail project. The proposed measure would also fund $314 million for increased Caltrain service, station improvements and extended station platforms.
About $350 million from the measure would go toward creating two express lanes on Highway 85, one in each direction. Meanwhile, county expressways would also get $750 million in upgrades designed to improve congestion and safety.
The largest single project listed in the measure, a proposed BART extension from the forthcoming Berryessa Station to the San Jose Diridon Station would receive no more than $1.5 billion.
The idea of a new ballot measure for transportation improvement has been discussed by county leaders for more than a year, and it generated a fair share of controversy. North County officials, including Supervisor Joe Simitian, publicly warned VTA board members that they would not support the tax measure if it primarily was used to fund a BART extension to benefit San Jose.
Late last year, Palo Alto, Mountain VIew and a coalition of West Valley and North County cities presented VTA with their own proposal on how to spend the money.
The county currently has two transportation-linked taxes that are active. The half-cent Measure A, which benefits an array of transit projects, is due to expire in 2036. Meanwhile the one-eighth-cent Measure B, which funds BART extensions and operations, is set to run through 2042.