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VTA gears up for Vasona LRT extension bidding

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  • 8/31 SJ Business Journal
    Published Friday, August 31, 2001, in the San Jose Business Journal VTA gears up to take bids on Vasona light-rail extension Andrew F. Hamm Work crews are
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 4, 2001
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      Published Friday, August 31, 2001, in the San Jose Business Journal

      VTA gears up to take bids on Vasona light-rail extension

      Andrew F. Hamm

      Work crews are digging a light-rail tunnel under the Diridon railroad
      station in downtown San Jose, and contracts are ready for bidding on
      the remaining Vasona light-rail line that will connect downtown with
      western San Jose and Campbell.

      The next key element will come in September, when the Valley
      Transportation Authority board will vote on an agreement in principle
      with Union Pacific Railroad for the right-of-way to 3.5 miles of the
      corridor southwest of Diridon Station.

      Once the Union Pacific agreement is final, bids will be accepted to
      build the rest of the estimated $283 million project, says John
      Pilger, spokesman for the VTA. The 5.3-mile light-rail line will make
      nine stops between Campbell and downtown San Jose. Construction
      contracts are to be awarded in December.

      The Vasona line is slated to open in late 2004, connecting to the
      existing system at West San Carlos Street and Woz Way.

      The most dynamic feature of the line will be its connection to
      Diridon Station, where Amtrak, Caltrain and ACE Commuter trains link
      up. Passengers will be able to connect from heavy rail to light rail
      on site. The new line also will run within one block of Compaq Center.

      The city of San Jose also hopes the new light-rail line will spur
      additional construction of apartments, condominiums and other high-
      density housing. City officials estimate that 2,500 units could be
      built around Diridon Station and southwest along the Vasona light-
      rail line.

      Tunnel construction began in February and should finish by 2002, says
      Mark Robinson, project manager for the Vasona project. Light-rail
      trains will go underground just north of the railroad station, curve
      underground and resurface southwest of Diridon at a new stop.

      That stop will be connected to Diridon Station via a 500-foot
      pedestrian tunnel. Another light-rail station would be located about
      four blocks away at San Fernando Street and Delmas Avenue.

      The new line has support from commuters, local and state officials
      for its convenience as a way to bring workers and shoppers into and
      out of downtown.

      Gov. Gray Davis approved an additional $15 million for the project so
      that a ninth stop could be built near the Campbell-Los Gatos border.

      However, not everybody is happy about the new line. Hamilton Avenue
      residents have complained about plans to build a bridge over the road
      and place a station in their neighborhood. The California Public
      Utilities Commission objected to VTA's original proposal for a a
      ground-level crossing at Hamilton, citing safety and traffic-flow
      concerns. No final decision has been made.

      A below-grade separation with a Hamilton Avenue station would add
      more than $19 million to the overall project, Mr. Pilger says, and
      delay opening the line until early 2006.

      Some neighborhood residents say they don't want any station -- with
      or without a bridge -- saying it will attract criminals and block
      views of the Santa Cruz mountains, according to Margaret Okuzumi,
      executive director of Peninsula Rail 2000, a commuter watchdog group.

      A second phase of construction, which would add two more stops in Los
      Gatos, has not been funded, Mr. Pilger says. VTA hopes to secure $59
      million in Measure A money to build that extension sometime after
      2004.

      The Vasona line is part of an ambitious expansion program for VTA's
      light-rail system. A Milpitas station opened earlier this year, and
      work began in June on the $150 million Capitol expansion that would
      extend the line 3.5 miles into east San Jose via four new stops. Yet
      another route now under construction, the $195 million, 2.9-mile
      Tasman East line, would add four stations in Milpitas and east San
      Jose and should open in the spring of 2004.

      Andrew F. Hamm covers sports management, energy issues and
      transportation for the Business Journal.
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