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SJ BART to get big funding boost from CTC, Dumbarton Rail

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  • 9/24 SJ Mercury
    Published Wednesday, September 24, 2008, by the San Jose Mercury News Big money set aside for BART extension to South Bay SAN JOSE EXPANSION NOW RIDES ON
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 25, 2008
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      Published Wednesday, September 24, 2008, by the San Jose Mercury News

      Big money set aside for BART extension to South Bay
      SAN JOSE EXPANSION NOW RIDES ON VOTERS GREENLIGHTING TAX

      By Gary Richards
      Mercury News

      The BART extension to Santa Clara County received a big financial
      boost Wednesday, and will receive an even bigger one today.

      The California Transportation Commission today is expected to
      allocate $239 million in state funds to help pay for the construction
      of the 16.3-mile BART line from Fremont to Santa Clara, completing a
      pledge made by the state nine years ago to contribute $760 million
      for BART. And Wednesday, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission,
      the Bay Area-wide transportation agency, voted to shift $91 million
      away from a proposed Dumbarton rail line to the BART project.

      "This makes BART seem more real, something that can happen in our
      lifetime and not 20 years or more," said San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed,
      a member of the Valley Transportation Authority board. "The state
      has made a huge commitment."

      But even with state and regional agencies lining up solidly behind
      the $6.1 billion project, there is still a huge missing link in the
      financial puzzle.

      The VTA needs about $750 million in federal assistance to build the
      BART line. But the Federal Transit Administration gave the BART line
      a "not recommended" rating in 2004, telling local officials it won't
      even consider a request for such a sum until the VTA comes up with a
      revenue source to pay for daily operations and maintenance, roughly
      $50 million a year.

      The focus now turns to the Nov. 4 election, in which Santa Clara
      County voters will be asked to support a one-eighth-cent increase
      in the local sales tax to cover those costs. This is on top of the
      half-cent sales tax approved eight years ago for BART and other
      transit improvements.

      Not everyone is happy about the state's move.

      "Why not wait until after November, when we know the vote in Santa
      Clara County?" said Stuart Cohen, executive director of the Oakland-
      based Transportation and Land Use Coalition. "Instead, they're giving
      money to a project that is still a long shot in getting all the
      funding it needs."

      And it upset VTA board member Yoriko Kishimoto, a Palo Alto council
      member who next month will ask her city council not to support the
      sales tax measure on the fall ballot.

      "I'm disappointed," she said. "I think the Bay Area needs to make
      regional transportation decisions in a more rational way. The basic
      question is what are the best projects for our county? Is it really
      BART?"

      This week's moves come a month after the state set aside $19.6
      million to build highway overpasses at Warren Avenue and Kato Road
      in Fremont to pave the way for BART trains to someday run.

      That all adds up to a $350 million infusion of cash, on top of nearly
      $460 million already spent by the VTA to buy Union Pacific tracks and
      land in downtown San Jose, and to pay for preliminary engineering
      studies.

      The San Jose Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce will weigh in
      today with a vote on whether to endorse Measure B, the BART tax.

      "We've discussed this at numerous meetings over the last three
      months," said the chamber's president, Pat Dando. "There are
      individuals who passionately support BART and individuals who
      passionately don't support it."

      Measure B would authorize the one-eighth-cent sales tax for 30 years,
      but it would not be collected until an agreement is reached with the
      FTA on federal funds. That could be three years at the earliest.

      The tax needs to pass by a two-thirds vote, perhaps a tall order
      considering the nation's financial crisis and worries about jobs
      and home mortgages.

      But the 2000 measure centered on BART won with a 71 percent approval,
      by far the biggest margin of victory of five transportation taxes
      that have gone before voters since 1976. And this week's money
      boost gives BART backers a head of steam heading into the election.

      "Big projects need momentum," said Metropolitan Transportation
      Commission spokesman Randy Rentschler. "And BART is picking up big
      momentum."


      Do you think voters will approve an increase in the sales tax to
      bring BART to Santa Clara County? Contact Gary Richards at
      mrroadshow@... or (408) 920-5335.
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