Aug. 27, 2022Updated: Aug. 28, 2022 3:04 p.m. (SFChronicle.com)
After more than 20 years of planning, financial woes and political strife, transit officials say that in 2024 they expect to start construction on the tunnel that will allow BART trains to roll into downtown San Jose.
What may seem like another item checked off a planner’s list is in fact an auspicious development: an extension that for decades was a maddening mirage on BART’s map appears to finally be within reach.
“Honestly, it’s feeling really positive right now,” project spokesperson Bernice Alaniz said Saturday afternoon, a day after representatives of BART and Valley Transportation Authority met to discuss funding and possible design alterations for the 6-mile, four station extension, projected to open in 2030.
Among the tweaks being considered is a center boarding platform for the three underground stations: 28th Street/Little Portugal, downtown San Jose and Diridon. This configuration would allow tracks to run side by side for 6 miles — rather than stacked in the style of a double-decker freeway — within the single-bore tunneling method to which both agencies agreed.
This arrangement would also enable contractor Kiewit Shea Traylor to build “shallower” stations, with a short ascent to the street, according to a blog post by VTA. Riders could potentially enter the downtown San Jose station from both the north and south sides of Santa Clara Street, making access easier.
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BART and VTA initially budgeted $6.9 billion for the next phase — all of which now is funded — but will also spend the next year preparing contingency funding plans for up to $9.1 billion. According to Alaniz, this is to show that the project can continue if there’s a prolonged spike in construction costs and inflation.
Yet if the agencies still have details to work out, they are also plowing forward: purchasing land along the route, preparing to order a boring machine next year and also move utilities out of the way. At this pace, officials expect to break ground in two years, a significant achievement for a transit system that’s long inched toward Silicon Valley.
“There’s been a high level of communication and coordination, and a lot of enthusiasm for the side-by-side, single bore design,” said BART board director Bevan Dufty, calling Friday’s meeting a “robust” 2½ hours. The agencies recently hired Gary Griggs, a consulting professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford University, to lead the project. He’ll begin the job this week, Dufty said.
For Bay Area commuters, BART’s expansion to San Jose has always seemed logical but also imbued with magical thinking, given the tortuous history of such extensions as the Peninsula line. When the first segment to Milpitas and Berryessa stations opened in June 2020, it coincided with the coronavirus pandemic that caused ridership to crater.
Twenty-one years after a VTA study recommended building out transit to unclog Interstate 880, the agencies are on pace to finish the 16 miles from south Fremont to Santa Clara, through what was once an industrial hinterland. Now, dense apartment buildings, an 80-acre Google campus and other projects are rising along the BART line, transforming whole swaths of the South Bay.
San Francisco Chronicle staff writer John King contributed to this report.
Rachel Swan is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: email@example.com Twitter: @rachelswan
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Written By Rachel Swa
Rachel Swan is a breaking news and enterprise reporter. She joined the Chronicle in 2015 after stints at several alt weekly newspapers. Born in Berkeley, she graduated from Cal with a degree in rhetoric and is now raising two daughters in El Cerrito.