Published Saturday, January 31, 2004, in the Milpitas Post
Long-held visions of BART face setback
State, federal funding in jeopardy
By Jay Peeples
With funding from the state and federal governments in question,
Valley Transportation Authority officials are waiting to see how long
the Bay Area Rapid Transit extension to Santa Clara County will be
According to Milpitas Vice Mayor Trish Dixon, who was recently seated
as a regular member on the transportation authority's board of
directors, the $4-billion project is "up in the air."
"It all comes down to funding," Dixon said.
With the state's finances in shambles and the federal government
staring at the largest budget deficit in the nation's history, the
anticipated funding sources for the much-anticipated project are
uncertain. Dixon said the BART project is competing against 200
projects nationally for funding from the federal government. Further,
she said a $15-billion state bond initiative on the March ballot will
dictate whether the project will receive necessary state funding.
"It is so critical in which way we turn," Dixon said.
Dixon said the failure of the bond will mean local, county and state
governments will have to cut their budgets dramatically. Valley
Transportation Authority is facing a $100-million deficit until a new
revenue stream is developed, Dixon said.
The issue of state and federal funding is crucial to the life of the
project, Dixon said, since an appropriation by either will likely mean
the other will fund the project as well.
"We really need both of them to attract other money," Dixon said.
While the federal government's $834-million contribution and the
state's $600 million appear to be in jeopardy, VTA will move forward
with plans and design for the BART to San Jose project. Dixon said
VTA is mulling a contract worth $171 million to perform preliminary
design work on the extension. Further, she said VTA will decide
whether to spend $1.6 million over two years, plus $400,000 in tenant
improvements, to lease a 40,000-square-foot building next door to
VTA's office on North First Street in San Jose.
Dixon said she believes Santa Clara County residents still want BART
to be extended to the region, but it won't happen tomorrow, she said.
"Are they willing to wait another 20 years?" Dixon said.
With money thin, Dixon said there are myriad other projects are set to
begin that are important to the county's transportation system.
Construction is ongoing at the Coleman Avenue interchange with
Interstate 880 the main access to the Norman Y. Mineta San Jose
In order to make ends meet, Dixon said the board will consider rate
hikes later this year. The rate increases are expected to go
hand-in-hand with modifications to service throughout the county,
including changing scheduling, the number of buses on the road, and
the amount of time between light-rail train arrivals.
"Our biggest task this year ... you're going to see an emphasis from
VTA to finely hone their services," Dixon said.
Despite the VTA's regional hurdles, Dixon said her goal this year on
the board is to continue to protect and promote Milpitas. Projects
she mentioned include installing soundwalls along Interstate 680 near
the Sunnyhills neighborhood and the widening of Montague Expressway.
Further, Dixon said she will review plans for the Milpitas Bay Area
Rapid Transit station at GreatMall, noting that the optional second
station in the city is probably out now.
"Maybe we should focus on getting BART to Warm Springs (in Fremont),"