Voters will decide next month on a measure that would raise billions of dollars to help address many public transportation issues throughout Santa Clara County.
Measure B, a half-cent sales tax for 30 years, would raise between $6 billion to $6.5 billion for the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) to extend BART into Silicon Valley, reduce crowded freeways and repair roads throughout Santa Clara County.
The measure, which needs a two-thirds majority to pass, would bump the sales tax to 9.25 percent in San Jose and Campbell and 9 percent in other cities throughout the county.
The projects it would fund are an effort to make sure the county's transportation infrastructure keeps up with the region's economic growth and fit together like a jigsaw puzzle to improve the system as a whole, said Chris O'Connor, director of transportation policy at Silicon Valley Leadership Group.
The measure would help the county be competitive in receiving more than $3 billion in matching funds from state and federal agencies for the projects, O'Connor said.
An estimated $1.5 billion would help build the second phase of BART's Silicon Valley Extension with three planned stops in San Jose at Alum Rock and 28th Street, downtown and Diridon station and a fourth in Santa Clara.
Another $1.2 billion would be set aside for cities and the county that would make plans for street repairs and improving conditions for bicyclists and pedestrians.
The money would also be divided for Caltrain's grade separation projects that space out the tracks from roadways, as well as work to ease congestion on county expressways and improvements on the Highway 85 corridor that includes a new lane from Highway 87 in San Jose to U.S. 101 in Mountain View.
Opponents of the measure include the Sierra Club's Loma Prieta chapter, BayRail Alliance and Silicon Valley Taxpayers Association that have argued many similar promises in Measure A from 2000 haven't been reached.
The 2000 measure aimed to construct a light-rail line between downtown and east San Jose that was later canceled, in addition to a new parkway and underpass at University Avenue in Palo Alto that was never built, according to opponents.
Measure A wasn't implemented until 2006 and many of the projects couldn't get built overnight, O'Connor said.
Opponents also argued that running BART trains between Santa Clara and the San Jose Diridon station would parallel service already provided through Caltrain that is under capacity.
O'Connor said running the parallel service will help build up Caltrain ridership and provide people with two connections to BART.
There are plans to build a maintenance yard at Santa Clara instead of running trains at the end of the day to the next closest yard in Hayward, and the infrastructure could make way for a connection to Mineta San Jose International Airport, O'Connor said.
The measure would also raise $750 million to help re-engineer highway interchanges instead of widening freeways, he said.
Another $500 million would be used to build a core bus network to serve people with low incomes and disabilities, according to O'Connor.
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