Brunette woman with black glasses in a black shirt speaking at podium reading "75,000 jobs" with group of union workers holding signs behind her reading "Ready to work," "Shovel Ready" and "75,000 jobs"
South Bay Labor Council Executive Officer Jean Cohen said the six-mile BART expansion through San Jose to Santa Clara will bring 75,000 much needed construction jobs to Silicon Valley. Photo by B. Sakura Cannestra.

Construction workers broke ground on BART’s expansion in Santa Clara this week, and officials are banking on federal funding to help finish the job.

Santa Clara County Supervisor and VTA Board Chair Cindy Chavez and other labor leaders urged the Federal Transportation Agency on Tuesday to approve VTA’s $6.2 billion funding request to support the BART expansion into Silicon Valley, which would cover just under half of the public transit project’s total $12.75 billion cost. Chavez said the federal funding will be announced “any day now,” and that any less than the full amount threatens VTA’s ability to finish the project.

“The reason we’re out here getting our voices heard is that we know there is a risk and we don’t want that risk for our community,” Chavez told San José Spotlight. “It’s been generations of dreams trying to get BART all the way into downtown San Jose and Santa Clara. We are fighting hard to make sure that happens.”

Blonde woman in denim dress standing alongside union workers holding signs reading "Ready to work" and 75,000 jobs"
Santa Clara County Supervisor and VTA Board Chair Cindy Chavez (center) said the requested $6.2 billion federal funding will be integral to finishing the BART expansion. Photo by B. Sakura Cannestra.

Local and state revenue sources are bringing $6.5 billion to the project, including taxpayer funds through transportation  Measure A in 2000, Measure B in 2016 and Regional Measure 3 in 2018. Chavez said these significant investments and preparedness for construction will help the BART expansion stand out among the dozens of other projects being considered by the federal agency for a finite amount of money.

The extension has undergone multiple revisions and updates. Construction is projected to finish by 2037, and the expansion will connect the Berryessa Transit Center to three new stations through San Jose and a new end stop in Santa Clara. In San Jose, property owners on Santa Clara Street said VTA has pushed them to sell their land and threatened to take it through eminent domain. Businesses will close to make way for the downtown San Jose extension and station.

Construction on the expansion is expected to generate 75,000 jobs across multiple fields, from electricians to iron workers. South Bay Labor Council Executive Officer Jean Cohen said the economic effects will be immediate, as wages earned by laborers boost the local economy.

“A project like this allows people to have sustained employment and to be able then create a safe and reliable environment for their families, especially in an economy that’s so challenging right now,” Cohen told San José Spotlight.

VTA workers officially broke ground on the 6-mile expansion Monday at the Newhall Maintenance Facility in Santa Clara and have been preparing since April by bringing equipment and arranging temporary field offices.

Multiple leaders from local unions spoke about the project’s significance in keeping local laborers working close to home and injecting revenue into the local economy. Luis Arguello, assistant business manager for LIUNA Local 270, said large projects like this are critical for Silicon Valley workers, who rely on construction projects to pay their bills.

Chris Donnelly, business agent for the Ironworkers Local 377 union, said on top of the immediate benefits of bringing in thousands of construction jobs, the expansion’s improvements to local transportation will have long term and far reaching effects across the Bay Area.

“It’s phenomenal, the savings, the green initiatives — it hits everything that is wanted,” Donnelly said. “The people of this county have done their due diligence in order to raise the money needed.”

Contact B. Sakura Cannestra at [email protected] or @SakuCannestra on X, formerly known as Twitter.

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