Focus on Infrastructure: Plan Bay Area Keeps BART Rolling to Silicon Valley

What concrete improvements arise from a regional plan? BART-to-Silicon Valley exemplifies the type of game-changing projects that benefit from a long-range blueprint like Plan Bay Area, which can help choreograph multi-year, multi-agency funding, planning and construction efforts.

When the BART District was formed in 1957, Santa Clara County officials asked not to be included. With time, however, there was growing interest in expanding BART into bustling Silicon Valley; but no steps could be taken without dedicated funds. The initial down payment came in 2000, when then-Gov. Gray Davis directed $1.5 billion in one-time budget surplus funds arising from the dot-com boom, plus another $3.4 billion over five years, to transportation projects. As part of this $4.9 billion package that included 141 projects statewide, Davis, with the Legislature’s approval, earmarked $760 million to extend BART from its terminus in Fremont all the way to San Jose.

Even with initial funds in place, extending BART from Alameda County into Santa Clara County required overcoming a number of other hurdles, like passing new sales taxes to finance construction and operation. In 2000, 70 percent of Santa Clara County voters supported the project by approving Measure A, a half-cent sales tax to benefit local rail projects, including bringing BART into Santa Clara and San Jose.

In 2008, Santa Clara County voters reaffirmed their support for the project with 68 percent approving Measure B, an additional one-eight-cent sales tax dedicated to funding operations and maintenance of the planned BART service. Measure B was instrumental in demonstrating the viability of the San Jose extension, and helped secure additional funds from the Federal Transit Administration’s New Starts program.

To be successful, the BART extension also needed to demonstrate that it met MTC’s criteria for regional transit expansion projects. The project was first integrated into MTC’s long-term Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) in 2001, as part of a Regional Transit Expansion Program (MTC Res. 3434). Further planning for the BART extension was guided by the 2005 RTP’s “Transportation/Land-Use Platform,” which conditioned transit funding on the provision of adequate housing units near all new stations—a measure intended to sustain ridership and revenues. Plan Bay Area continues to build on these past planning efforts, dedicating some $8.3 billion towards realizing the project that Governor Davis initiated in 2000. 

The first station along the extension — Fremont’s Warm Springs Station — is scheduled to open in fall 2015, the result of many decades of dreaming, planning and organizing. The 10-mile stretch from Warm Springs to San Jose’s planned Berryessa Station is currently under construction. Meanwhile, the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority is planning a second-phase extension that will extend from San Jose into the city of Santa Clara, adding four new stations over six miles. Ultimately, when residents can journey 21 miles on BART from Fremont to Santa Clara, it will represent the achievement of a broad vision that has taken shape through a series of long-range regional transportation plans.