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VTA Breaks Ground on $12.7 Billion BART Extension Through South Bay

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South Bay leaders, transit officials and regional boosters take part in a ceremonial groundbreaking for VTA's BART Silicon Valley Phase II project in Santa Clara on Friday. (Joseph Geha/KQED)

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, the old saying goes.

And on Friday, the first scoop of dirt was taken out of the ground in what has been a decadeslong journey of planning and fundraising to run six new miles of BART track through the South Bay.

Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, known as VTA, held a groundbreaking on Friday to celebrate the beginning of heavy construction work on its BART Silicon Valley Phase II project.

“The project is a critical step in fulfilling the longstanding vision of ringing the Bay with high-quality, green-transit passenger rail,” Carolyn Gonot, VTA’s general manager, said.

VTA General Manager Carolyn Gonot speaks during the agency’s BART Silicon Valley Phase II project groundbreaking event on Friday. (Joseph Geha/KQED)

The $12.7 billion undertaking will extend BART from its current end of the line at Berryessa Station in North San José and will run west to create four new stations: 28th Street/Little Portugal near East San José, Downtown San José, Diridon and Santa Clara.

“This project is more than a transit expansion. It’s a catalyst for sustainable urban development and promoting affordable housing and equitable access to education, to health care, to jobs, to opportunities and strengthening neighborhoods for generations to come,” Gonot said.

South Bay officials at the groundbreaking emphasized how big transportation projects require collective efforts and steadfast commitment to a vision over many years to complete.


San José Mayor Matt Mahan said people are still benefiting from services like Caltrain today due to forward-looking investments made in the past. He noted he used the rail line to commute to run his former business in San Francisco while living in San José and a bus line in his youth to traverse Highway 17.

“Transit changed my life. It allowed me to get where I needed to go again and again, and it was a gift from past generations,” Mahan said. “We need to give that same gift to the next generation, and the one after that, and the one after that. Because transit connectivity creates opportunity.”

San José Mayor Matt Mahan said transit projects take collective effort and vision to complete during a groundbreaking event for VTA’s BART Silicon Valley Phase II project in Santa Clara on Friday. (Joseph Geha/KQED)

The project has faced significant timeline delays and massive cost increases long before any of the golden-colored shovels wielded by politicians and project leaders hit the ground on Friday in the hot sun.

An original VTA estimate in 2014 put the project cost at $4.7 billion, hoping to open the new stations to riders by 2026, which is more than two-and-a-half times cheaper than the current estimate and about 11 years sooner.

Between 2020 and 2021, the cost increased to $6.9 billion, then to $9.1 billion, in part due to evaluations from federal officials overseeing the project. VTA later revised its own estimate to $12.2 billion in October 2023, and another federal estimate earlier this year pegged the current cost and timeline, which VTA has not refuted.

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But local and regional leaders have largely held firm in calling for the project to push ahead, despite the hurdles and fumbles.

“We can’t imagine what our valley will look like in 50 or 100 years, but we can be confident that connecting rail around the Bay and helping millions of people access the heart of Silicon Valley, where most of the region’s growth is expected to happen in the coming decades, is going to create opportunity for so many,” Mahan said.

In addition to a new BART station, the site of the groundbreaking in Santa Clara near the border of San José is where a huge hole will be dug to eventually allow a $76 million tunnel boring machine being assembled in Germany to be dropped into the ground.

Once in place, it will begin eating away at millions of cubic yards of dirt to make way for the largely underground extension. The muck removed from the tunneling effort and digging for other station construction is set to be used to help benefit tidal marsh restoration efforts in the bay.

Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez said that breaking ground on projects such as the BART extension and the recent start of construction of an elevated light rail extension through a heavily trafficked part of East San José shows a commitment to advancement.

Santa Clara County Supervisor and VTA Board Chair Cindy Chavez thanks VTA General Manager Carolyn Gonot (right) for her efforts to guide the agency’s BART Silicon Valley Phase II project on Friday. (Joseph Geha/KQED)

“We deserve world-class transportation in one of the most important economic hubs in the world,” Chavez said.

“It is a recognition of not just the importance of this community, but a recognition that we in this region are not stopping, we’re going to keep growing,” she said. “We’re not slowing down. We’re going to continue to be the center of innovation.”

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