Press "Enter" to skip to content

BART to Santa Clara Busts Budget

VTA wants to spend over $1 billion bringing BART to infrequently visited Santa Clara.

The Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) is determined to pour over $1 billion into building a single BART station at the Santa Clara Caltrain Station (where Caltrain and VTA buses 22 and 522 already run). The Caltrain station, where the new BART station would open in 2026 at the earliest, is one of the least busy. Despite this, VTA is ignoring a 3-station alternative for the project’s final Environmental Impact Report (EIR), with San Jose Diridon as the final station, and no extension to Santa Clara. The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), mandates that “all reasonable and feasible” alternatives that meet the goals of the project be considered.

“If you go back to 2004 when we did the final EIR for the 16-mile, six-station project, we would’ve had local funds,” said VTA Planner Tom Fitzwater at the Board of Directors meeting on August 25. “We could have actually built the project. But we didn’t have the money.”

“We’re now at that final environmental document that hopefully will get us over the finish line,” said Fitzwater. VTA staff are asking the Board of Directors to make three key decisions at its October 5 meeting: single or twin tunnel boring, Downtown station east or west option, and Diridon station north or south option. All of the choices assume that a Santa Clara BART Station will be built. A three-station alternative excluding Santa Clara Station is not considered.

VTA is only really authorizing a single option for BART to Santa Clara. Image: VTA

Extending BART from Berryessa to Santa Clara includes a five-mile tunnel from east of Highway 101, under Santa Clara Street to Diridon Station, then to the Santa Clara station. VTA staff now favor a more costly 45-feet single-bore tunneling option instead of the twin-bore 20-feet diameter tunnels assumed previously. The single-bore tunnel requires excavating more earth and would be located deeper underground.

“Considering the fact that we have not developed the designs for single-bore as extensively as we have for the twin-bore, the uncertainties associated with the base cost as higher,” explained Davey. “So if you add uncertainties, you will see the twin [bore] slightly more expensive.

“For twin-bore your station entrances are smaller, usually off to the side of the street,” said BART to Silicon Valley Phase II Planning Manager Leyla Hedayat at the meeting. “For single-bore you’ll have a larger station entrance, but it’s primarily off-street.” Hedayat noted that both options will require nearly the same amount of cut-and-cover construction: twin bore, Market Street to Fourth Street, single bore, Market to Third.

“There’s so many access points, and it’s easy to start to say, oh my gosh, like, how are we going to connect all of this,” said VTA Board member and Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez of the future Diridon Station that will add BART, High Speed Rail, and expanded bus services.

“Once we define the project, we’re are going through an access planning transit-oriented study. We are going to be spending two years refining and making sure our access points are looked at from a multi-modal perspective,” added Hedayat.

VTA officials are now considering single-bore or twin-bore tunnels for BART to Santa Clara. Image: VTA

“Along the alignment we’ll be continually pumping [water out],” clarified VTA Project Controls Manager Krishna Davey in response to a question by VTA Board member and San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo. “When it comes to twin bore, you have multiple points where you pierce the liner, so the chances of leakage is greater [than a single bore tunnel].”

VTA planners are considering two different station locations for the Downtown San Jose BART Station, an east and a west, and two locations for the Diridon BART Station, a north and a south. These station locations, along with the tunneling method used, will be determined at the October 5 meeting.

“How will VTA participate with the City of San Jose in the multi-modal transportation study around the 28th Street Little Portugal station?” asked resident David Viera. “And yes, I am lobbying for the name Little Portugal for that station.”

The VTA Board of Directors will continue its BART to Santa Clara review at its next meeting on September 22, when staff will present the “results of an independent analysis comparing the two tunneling methods, and an evaluation of both the station and tunneling options.” The Board is scheduled to determine the Downtown San Jose and Diridon station locations as well as the tunnel boring method on October 5.

  • omaryak

    BART to Santa Clara is a long-term investment that will enable more development than if it simply connected existing suburban communities. Its proximity to the university and airport, as well as central location on the street grid make it an ideal transfer point to other forms of transit. BART to Santa Clara can also be extended down El Camino Real in the future to enable more sustainable growth in Silicon Valley.

    Saying the Caltrain station is the least-used obscures the growth opportunities available, and it illustrates the potential for more ridership if BART provides a higher quality and level of service. Complaining about the length of the project (“2026 at the earliest”) also shows a lack of vision in terms of how much more demand for transit and housing there will be as the Bay Area grows.

    • Affen_Theater

      “BART to is a long-term investment that will enable more development than if it it “simply” (huh?) connected existing suburban communities.”

      WTF? Makes no sense. What “existing suburban communities”? Livermore is a suburban community. And if the other SJ extension stations are “existing suburban communities”, then so is Santa Clara. Huh?

      SJ Diridon is about the same distance to the SJC terminals as Santa Clara, which is only close as the bird flies, not as the bus drives. SJC long ago considered and rejected a people mover crossing under the runway to Santa Clara. That was long before Caltrain electrification and HSR were approved and funded (let alone HSR via Pacheco, which means all HSR trains will pass through SJ Diridon) … so now, an SJC people mover doglegging (or tunneled) to Santa Clara, where HSR will never stop so soon after SJ Diridon, makes even less sense when Diridon will have ACE, Amtrak Coast Starlight, Caltrain (electrified and BART-level frequency), Capitol Corridor, HSR, VTA LRT & buses, Hwy 17 Express (to/from Scotts Valley & Santa Cruz), Amtrak Thruway buses, SAP Arena, huge new expanded Google Campus, huge Adobe expansion (new building, 3,000+ new workers, etc.).

      Santa Clara, on the other hand, has a terrible track record on, and has no good plans or examples of a commitment to TOD. BART plans to cover the lions share of the underutilized UP (former SP) yard with their new yard … which, incidentally, can be placed on light-industrial zoned land acquired along the line in the Berryessa area.

      BART beyond SJ Diridon is about the worst example of pissing away a BILLION+ dollars on needlessly and duplicatively parallelling a similar existing rail service (in this case Caltrain, which is already there and will be running high performance EMUs on BART comparable frequencies by that time en route to other destinations more worthy of transit-level (aka heavy) rail service north and south of there) to perhaps one of the most “nowhere” stations imaginable in terms of density, ridership or place. Santa Clara station is, as the original article correctly points out, a really crappy performer and a horrible place (in terms of value for money) to build an expensive BART station (I know, that’s redundant, because that’s the only kind there is … because it’s BART!).

      “Saying the Caltrain station is the least-used obscures the growth opportunities …” What!? It’s a factual observation, and doesn’t “obscure” anything, let alone “growth opportunities”. An empty field has even more growth opportunities, so by this logic, we should be extending BART all through the most vacant areas possible … just think of the growth opportunities!

      “… and it illustrates the potential for more ridership if BART provides a higher quality and level of service.”

      What? Utter rubbish. Observing that few people ride to Santa Clara (because there’s not much around there besides SCU and a stadium and some auto-oriented big box stores like Costco and Lowes adjacent to the wrong side of SJC runways. Ohhh, just so pregnant with major “potential” which will burst forth from the belly of an alien-infested host when “BART provides a higher quality and level of service” … maybe equalling what electrified Caltrain will have already brought to that area prior to that.

      @omaryak:disqus, your boss at BART PR Department (or was it VTA’s?) just called and asked us to remind you that the BART/VTA PR department does not pay overtime or bonuses for extra-curricular/freelance/after-hours BART and/or VTA pork shilling (or should it be swilling) … including fanboy activities on your own spare or free time. He’s also worried that VTA needlessly competing for and blowing an additional billion or so on BART to Santa Clara Caltrain along the Caltrain tracks has a big opportunity cost in terms of funding other more important and more cost-effective BART projects and goals (not to mention funding other more cost-effective regional non-BART transit projects and goals). He sounded upset, and wants to see you in his office ASAP.