An internal document from the Federal Transit Administration says the BART to San Jose project will take four years longer — and cost twice as much to complete — as Bay Area transit authorities had once estimated.
BART already does go to San Jose. The Berryessa/North San Jose station is technically within the city limits of San Jose, though it opened at the very unfortunate moment of June 2020, when pandemic ridership was basically microscopic. But the system has long been planning on building another four stops after that, extending the system not quite full circle around the Bay, but to Santa Clara.
Exclusive: Concerned about VTA’s ability to deliver BART’s San Jose extension on budget and on schedule, feds are now predicting a 2034 opening date.— Maggie Angst (@MaggieAngst) February 18, 2022
That’s on top of a price tag that they believe will balloon to $9.1 billion. @mercnews https://t.co/0IXqv6Zvpt
How long might all that take? Try 2034 for size. The Bay Area News Group has obtained an internal Federal Transit Administration memo that indicates the San Jose BART extension won’t be completed until 2034, and on top of that, per the news group “the project could rise to $9.1 billion — $4.4 billion over the VTA’s initial cost estimate.”
The “VTA” refers to the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, and so here we have a VTA vs FTA (Federal Transit Administration) skirmish. And to be fair, as seen on the map segment below where the new BART lines are presented as little gray rectangles, this is not just a one-station extension, it's four. It would go to 28th Street/Little Portugal, Downtown San Jose, and then onward to Diridon Station, and then from there to Santa Clara.
But the feds at the FTA wrote damningly about the budget and the planning of this BART extension, calling it “overly optimistic,” “illogical,” and generating a “misleading risk profile.”
Now that the feds’ report is public, the VTA is pushing back hard. “We studied the risk report 10 times to Sunday,” VTA’s BART Program Chief Takis Salpeas told the news group. “It’s not an engineering study, and it’s not a construction cost estimate. It’s a probabilistic ‘what if’ assessment.”
So the BART extension to downtown San Jose I voted for when I was 29 years old is now expected to open when my daughter will be 25. That's a generation-long wait. https://t.co/7SnkDXaQis— Sal Pizarro (@spizarro) February 18, 2022
What’s fundamentally at issue here is whether to proceed with tunnel construction methods called “single bore” or “twin bore” which all sounds (haha) boring, but essentially will determine how badly torn up the streets of San Jose will be during the underground construction, and how long that nightmare will last. The Bay Area News Group describes the proposed project as “one of the world’s largest underground subway tunnels — 48 feet wide, the width of a basketball court, through a 4.7-mile stretch of San Jose.”
And that could make the seemingly never-ending Van Ness construction project look like an afternoon matinee. The VTA and FTA are trying to weigh trade-offs between spending and construction hassle. The BART extension needs those federal dollars, bur San Jose may suffer huge financial losses just by having the town torn up for a longer period.
“We all know transit projects seem to take too long, but what we don’t want to do is choke the downtown,” San Jose Mayor San Liccardo told the news group.
Related: $141 Million In BART Funding for San Jose Extension Gets Dropped From Stimulus Bill [SFist]