In late August, the VTA and BART boards held a joint meeting to discuss the design of the Silicon Valley BART Extension. This program would extend BART service through downtown San Jose and into north Santa Clara. The meeting included a proposal to change the design of the three underground stations running through San Jose by including a center platform. However, questions about cost and accessibility could halt the project further.
Where is the BART Silicon Valley Extension at right now?
The Silicon Valley BART Extension Project is nearing the stage where it will begin construction for Phase II. BART service to the newly constructed Berryessa/North San Jose station was extended in Phase I. Phase II will bring BART service to downtown San Jose by the 2030s.
Currently, the Phase II plan is in its design and engineering stage. The biggest concerns that VTA and BART officials have at this point are the cost and design of three underground stations. These stations are the planned 28th Street/Little Portugal Station, Downtown San Jose Station along Santa Clara Street, and Diridon Station. All three stations will cause significant disruption during their construction on the streets above, and their cost is an open question. Up until now, the VTA’s plan was to create a single-bore tunnel with stacked platforms. However, this plan drew the ire of business owners and transit advocates alike.
At the meeting on August 26th, the VTA unveiled a new plan for these stations: a wider single-bore tunnel that includes a central platform for boarding. The VTA said this would make boarding simpler for riders, reduce the cost of construction, and keep the disruption of Santa Clara Street to a minimum.
What concerns do advocates have?
While some lauded the new plan as an effective compromise, not everyone is happy with it. The biggest fight is still over the single-bore tunnel. Transit advocates in the region are still pushing for a twin-bore design, which they say will prevent riders from needing to descend further underground. Notably, most subway tunnels use a twin-bore design. The VTA has heralded the single-bore design as innovative, but transit advocates are skeptical.
On the other hand, business advocates are still concerned about the effect that the construction will have on businesses. The project’s timeline now extends into the 2030s, meaning that construction disruptions will last through the late 2020s at least. The VTA says that the single-bore design will reduce disruption to businesses on the streets above. However, the newest design calls for a wider tunnel, and a wider tunnel will mean more construction, and therefore more disruption.
Only time will tell which option the VTA and BART will go with, as the current proposals are all pending review. However, one hopes that the option they ultimately choose will provide much-needed connectivity for Silicon Valley to the Bay Area.