The whoosh of empty trains arriving and departing the Berryessa Transit Station was a welcome sound Tuesday morning, as transit leaders announced June 13 is the first day passengers will finally board VTA’s BART Silicon Valley extension.
A feat 30 years in the making to connect San Jose to the rest of the Bay Area, the opening of the 10-mile extension – with stations located at 925 Berryessa Station Way in San Jose and 1755 S. Milpitas Blvd. in Milpitas – marks the first time BART service is available in Santa Clara County.
“People in our communities were so excited about being connected via transit. We’ve been taxing ourselves to enable us to have all of these options,” said Cindy Chavez, president of VTA board and the Board of Supervisors. “I want to say a very special thank you to the voters – this new 10-mile extension will serve tens of thousands of people every day.”
Both VTA and BART’s general managers, Nuria Fernandez and Robert Powers, signed the Project Safety and Security Certificate to mark the milestone Tuesday. Now, the California Public Utilities Commission has 14 days to approve the verification of safety – the last step before officially serving passengers, according to VTA.
Some residents, however, have said online they’re still holding their breath until June 13, as extensive delays have already pushed the stations’ opening several years from the planned opening in summer 2018.
San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo and Silicon Valley Leadership Group CEO Carl Guardino also spoke at Tuesday ceremony, highlighting the funding and strategic challenges it took getting to the opening, including weathering the 2008 recession.
Once it’s opened, the station in Milpitas will connect BART to both VTA bus and light rail service, while the Berryessa station will be the hub for BART train service and VTA bus service.
Let's talk maps. 🗺️
BART staff finalized its new system map in preparation for the future Milpitas and Berryessa station opening and will present it to the Board of Directors next week.
Left: current map
Right: finalized new map once Milpitas & Berryessa opens pic.twitter.com/PsozXKpbMN
— SFBART (@SFBART) May 8, 2020
Berryessa will be the temporary end of the line for service, as Phase II of the expansion plans to run through Santa Clara and downtown San Jose – a concept still years in the making as engineering and pre-construction work continues.
Amid closures and lockdowns combating the coronavirus, BART ridership has plummeted 90 percent. But as funding from fare boxes tank, Powers said BART was pleased to receive funding from Congress’ CARES Act, as $251 million has already been allocated from the first tranche of funding. Those dollars, he said, will carry them through June 30.
But Lateefah Simon, BART board president, said they’re still seeing up to 24,000 commuters each day. That continued use, she emphasized, points to the necessity of transit not only for commuters but as a resource to battle inequities of access for all residents.
“What’s so exciting about actually having transit that now connects five counties, is that people – real people – are going to be able to be connected,” Simon said. “Silicon Valley, as we all know, is not just a region where folks have the $94,000 cars. This is a region of hundreds of thousands of folks who need to get to work, to hospitals, to visit their children and their families.”