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.
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.
“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.