VTA to discuss remodeling site of San Jose mass shooting
Valley Transportation Authority light rail trains stay lined up at the organization's San Jose operations facility. File photo.

    A mass shooting in May left San Jose without light rail service for weeks. Now that VTA has a roadmap to resume service, the transit agency will discuss a budget that, among other things, seeks to rebuild parts of the rail yard damaged in the shooting.

    VTA’s Board of Directors will discuss funding Tuesday to rehabilitate and rebuild parts of the rail yard, but plans for demolishing buildings are not immediately clear. According to a memo, officials are asking for additional changes in the 2022 and 2023 fiscal year budgets of up to $150 million to remodel the rail yard and related facilities.

    “The tragedy that happened at the Guadalupe Light Rail Facility on May 26, 2021, has caused tremendous human and property losses,” read the memo. “Elected officials of various governmental branches have been working closely to identify resources to provide support to the VTA family and to rehabilitate the affected facilities.”

    VTA declined further comment and referred San José Spotlight to Tuesday’s meeting. The agency received $20 million in state funding in June to aid in the recovery.

    Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez, also part of VTA’s board, spoke last month of demolishing and reconstructing two buildings at the rail yard—both of which sustained damage during the mass shooting.

    Chavez told NBC Bay Area that a renovation would make the rail yard less traumatic for employees when they come back to the site full time. Should the site have a permanent memorial, she said victims’ families should be considered before going ahead with any plans.

    Talk of demolishing or remodeling the buildings is still in the early stages. One logistical concern is finding a new rail yard.

    “One of the challenges we have is that yard is where we bring light rail trains for storage in the evening, and where we launch in the morning,” Chavez said previously.

    Screenshot of VTA’s timeline to resume light rail train service.

    The move isn’t unprecedented: Buildings involved in several of the nation’s mass shootings—including buildings at Columbine High School in Columbine, Colorado, Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut and Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon—were demolished after their respective mass shootings.

    Other places, such as the Mandalay Bay Resort in Las Vegas, the site of a 2017 mass shooting, took other measures, such as renumbering the floor where the shooter stayed. After a 2015 mass shooting in a Charleston, South Carolina church, Sunday services resumed just days after.

    But none of those buildings have the intricate infrastructure that thousands of people rely on daily for transportation.

    The rail yard in downtown San Jose has been home to VTA’s light rail maintenance service and equipment since 1987. About 379 VTA employees worked there prior to the shooting.

    Light rail service is set to return later this month in a multi-phase process. Renovations and possible demolition of buildings are set to be discussed during the process.

    The VTA Board of Directors will hold its special meeting Tuesday at 2 p.m. For more information on how to watch or participate, click here.

    Contact Lloyd Alaban at [email protected] or follow @lloydalaban on Twitter.

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