It was one of the best days of former San Jose Mayor Ron Gonzales’ life.
“I feel like a kid at Disneyland for the first time,” he said.
But instead of riding the rollercoaster on Space Mountain, Gonzales rode the first BART train departing from San Jose — a moment 31 years in the making.
BART and Valley Transportation Authority hosted ribbon-cutting ceremonies at new stations Friday morning in San Jose and Milpitas. It marked the first time BART expanded to Santa Clara County.
About 150 people were in attendance — among several local leaders — at the Berryessa Station in north San Jose. Chairs were designated six feet apart and everyone was required to wear facemasks, except when speaking at the podium.
Carl Guardino, CEO of Silicon Valley Leadership Group, said the station was a newborn baby that stayed in the womb for three decades. He then reached into his jacket and pulled out a single Huggies diaper — drawing laughter from the audience.
“As we celebrate the birth of this baby, I thought it would be appropriate, as a father of three, to make sure that baby is swaddled well in the Huggies that we can’t give each other today due to social distancing,” Guardino said while placing a bag of diapers on the podium. “So, each speaker after me, I have not touched these Huggies, but this is my virtual hug to you.”
Out of the 14 speakers, more than half of them mentioned Gonzales. They often recognized him as the most influential figure in bringing BART to San Jose. Earlier this week, a group of prominent political and community leaders launched a campaign to name the Berryessa Station in San Jose after him.
Gonzales said he first campaigned to extend the rail to the South Bay in 1989 when he was a county supervisor. It became one of his priorities during his time as San Jose mayor from 1999 to 2006.
“That was my dream over 31 years ago when people said I was crazy to even talk about it,” Gonzales said. “To our leaders at VTA and BART, thank you. Now get some rest over the weekend and then back to our next objective: Connecting these trains with downtown San Jose and beyond.”
— Luke Johnson (@Scoop_Johnson) June 12, 2020
After cutting the giant ribbon and opening the gates, nearly 70 attendees boarded the inaugural BART ride from San Jose to Milpitas. Many people expressed that they were impressed with the aesthetics of the Milpitas Station, which featured a glass ceiling in the lobby.
One of the final speakers of the ceremony was Lateefah Simon, president of BART Board of Directors. She described herself as “transit dependent” and said she’s never driven a car because she was born legally blind.
“It’s a lexicon called ‘transit justice,’” Simon said. “People in the Bay Area not only have the right to be connected, but with safe and reliable and affordable opportunity for their mobility.”
Both Milpitas and Berryessa stations will be open to the public Saturday.
Contact Luke Johnson at email@example.com and follow @Scoop_Johnson on Twitter.