Last week, the Santa Clara City Council heard from VTA about the plans and status of the BART extension to Santa Clara from Diridon Station in San Jose. Design and construction are slated to begin later this year, and passenger service is anticipated in 2030.
Federal Transit Administration has sent VTA a Letter of Intent to provide 25 percent of the construction costs or $2.3 billion — whichever is less — for the six-mile, four-station extension, five miles of which will be underground.
Council Member Suds Jain said that he felt that the Santa Clara station was being shortchanged for amenities. He also questioned whether 500 parking spots would be enough if, as is hoped, the subway trips will replace individual car trips.
BART Silicon Valley Business Operations and Communications Director Bernice Alaniz responded that the 500 spaces are what was environmentally cleared, but that didn’t preclude other parking agreements that would be outside the project.
Jain also asked for a public study session with the designers to explain the reasoning behind the design.
Gillmor expressed concern that being the end of the BART line, the Santa Clara station could end up being sacrificed to budget overruns or other problems that may arise during construction.
“I’m looking for more assurance that Santa Clara is a critical station for VTA,” Gillmor said.
Santa Clara is currently an alternate member of the VTA board but will rotate into an active board position this year.
“I want to emphasize, the project we got approval for, that we can build, that the federal government will fund, is the project as currently configured,” said Alaniz. “If we were to do anything different, that’s another project.”
Alaniz forstalled any ideas that BART would continue up the Peninsula.
“It isn’t being built with the intention to add-on after this. It is designed as an end-of-line station with a rail yard,” said Alaniz.
CalTrain Citizens Advisory Committee member Adrian Brandt expressed concern about what he called he called the “Rube Goldberg” configuration of the elevated concourse in the station, which adds two extra trips up and down to get to trains.
“There’s too much up-and-down required,” he said. “The view is nice to have, but if you think about all the thousands of up-downs that should be avoided and that are being needlessly imposed in perpetuity, you really should consider putting the concourse underground.”
“The basic design is fixed,” said Alaniz. “The travel distances [are] similar to the Warm Springs [station] design, and I don’t believe there is a lot of negative feedback about that.”
The project doesn’t include a direct connection between Santa Clara and San José Mineta Airport and that would have to be a separate project. The only connection between the Santa Clara train station and the airport is the VTA #60 bus.
“I like where we are now, but I don’t think there’s been a lot of ‘tender loving care’ in the design,” said Council Member Anthony Becker.
“Whatever leeway we have in the design, if we incorporate [resident] suggestions for improvement…that’s the main goal,” said Council Member Raj Chahal.
“I do feel we should have a better design,” added Council Member Kevin Park. “This station will be putting Santa Clara on the map, just because we have a BART station.”
“I think what we’ve heard is that the station has been designed,” said Gillmor. “Going forward let’s look at decisions we can make and work with VTA …and look at the areas around the station that we do have more control over.”
Gillmor reiterated Jain’s request for a study session with the designer.
For more information about BART to Santa Clara, visit the VTA page here.