True to form, BART has finally cleared miles of red tape and hurdled past legions of complications to extend train service to San Jose for the first time in the middle of a pandemic when South Bay commuters need it least. But they did it, dammit! And both the Berryessa and Milpitas stations are opening for business Saturday nearly 40 years after BART first began planning this project, eight years after construction began, and at least two years after it was originally scheduled to open.
The original seeds for the Silicon Valley extension of BART along the East Bay line began as early as 1981. Construction on the tracks to these two stations, in Milpitas and the Berryessa neighborhood of North San Jose, began in April 2012 — if you can believe it. Five years ago, this project was still set to be done by 2018. Early last year, November 1, 2019 had been the target opening date. As late as September we still thought these stations would be open by the end of 2019, but that didn't happen.
After a slew of unforeseen delays, here we are, June 2020, and BART will begin ferrying riders from North San Jose all the way to Daly City and back on Saturday. As KPIX reports, the last stage before opening was sign-off by the California Public Utilities Commission. And "Safety testing, final construction and the meticulous process of adjusting time schedules to take into consider the extra travel for trains to complete their journey on the South Bay extension have been underway for the last month."
During a ceremony marking the completion of major construction on the $2.3 billion project back in May, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo said, "We know these have been some dark months that we’ve endured. But pulling together, this valley, this county, this region, this city have all shown our character, collectively, and we should celebrate great days like this."
The openings of these two stations extends BART service a full ten miles into the South Bay from the last completed station, Warm Springs/South Fremont, which opened in 2017 — itself about three years late. And for commuters to Oakland and San Francisco who live in the San Jose area, this means a possible respite from traffic that has destroyed their mornings and evenings for years if not decades.
The opening of Milpitas Station marks the first time that BART will intersect with VTA light rail service — the station connects to VTA's Milpitas (formerly Montague) Station via a pedestrian bridge. Infill stations in the Irvington neighborhood of Fremont, and Calaveras Boulevard in Milpitas remain in planning stages.
As the Mercury News reported way back in 2009, the entire Silicon Valley extension, wrapping BART service around from the East Bay through San Jose to Santa Clara, was originally planned as one mega-project. But lower-than-expected federal funding and sales-tax collection, combined with state budget woes during the Great Recession, meant that this was divided into three phases, with the Warm Springs extension the first to be funded and approved. Next up BART will face the daunting task of getting Phase 3 underway during a year of historic budget shortfalls due to the pandemic — so one can expect that service into downtown San Jose won't be making the currently projected completion timeframe of 2029/30.