State lawmakers are set to give $20 million to VTA to help it recover from the deadliest shooting in Bay Area history.
The funding is included in the state budget and will allow the transportation agency to provide mental health resources to employees and their families, resume light rail service and improve safety upgrades at the Guadalupe Rail Yard in downtown San Jose, state Sen. Dave Cortese said at a news conference Monday.
“Having served on the board for 17 years, this has hit close to home for me,” Cortese said. “I want to thank Governor Newsom, and the Senate leadership… for recognizing the urgent need for taking action.”
The additional funding, proposed by Cortese, came late in the budget process and after nine VTA workers were gunned down by another employee at the rail yard in late May. Nearly 100 workers witnessed the shooting and many are still struggling to find resources, Cortese said.
The state funding will go directly to VTA to decide how to spend between personnel needs and capital projects, Cortese said.
“This immediate injection of resources to keep the trains running and to make sure we’re able to help workers get through this very difficult time… is a great sense of comfort for all of us,” Assemblymember Ash Kalra said at the news conference.
As workers are still reeling from the shooting and with light rail service suspended indefinitely, the funding will address damage at the rail yard and make sure buildings are safe for workers to return, ATU Local 265 President John Courtney said Monday. VTA will also implement more safety trainings.
“One of the biggest pieces to bring light rail back is our mental condition,” Courtney said. “These families are very scared and afraid… but we absolutely have to let them know that there was a process in place to take care of all the family members and all the grieving families.”
It’s still unclear when light rail will resume operations, Courtney said, as buildings, equipment and computers necessary to the service were damaged during the shooting.
VTA is also considering demolishing the building where the shooting happened, said Santa Clara County Supervisor and VTA board member Cindy Chavez, adding that there are existing safety concerns with the facility. The Guadalupe Rail Yard has been home to VTA’s light rail maintenance service and equipment since 1987. About 379 VTA employees worked there prior to the shooting.
“This is a very important location and so making sure that location is hardened and protected long term is going to be very important so that employees feel safe going back to work,” Chavez said, adding that the plan will need additional funding from the state.
The $20 million in state funding is split into two bills. One will go on the Senate floor and one will go through the Assembly before reaching the governor’s desk.
“Without the support, it could have put VTA in a position of having to reprioritize,” Chavez said of the agency’s suffering budget. “Now we can prioritize our employees and the future of VTA, and frankly in my perspective, to come back better than ever.”