SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) -- The goal of connecting the heart of downtown San Jose to BART faces a significant, years-long delay before the project has even broken ground, much to the disappointment and frustration of many who've been eagerly awaiting the arrival of the transit system.
"Public trust is important. And all these delays don't help the situation," said former Valley Transportation Authority Board Member Johnny Khamis. "People are expecting results and I'm hoping we can work to decrease the timeline -- not keep increasing it."
BART originally estimated it could build the extension from its new station in San Jose's Berryessa neighborhood into downtown and out to Santa Clara by 2026. But the VTA, which will actually build the new line, now says it will likely be the end of the decade in 2030 before the new rail line is up and running.
"It's a fair assessment that 2026 date that was based on us reaching certain milestones on time is not the current schedule that we're on right now," VTA Spokesperson Bernice Alaniz said.
VTA lobbied hard for the so-called "single bore construction" method, a massive underground tunnel that would largely eliminate the need to tear up the street along the project route. However, VTA engineers now say the complexity of the project will require several years of planning before construction can even begin.
That assessment differs, Khamis says, from information conveyed to the VTA board at the time of their decision.
"We thought it was going to take less time because we weren't going to have to rip up the entire Santa Clara Street," Khamis said.
Both phases of the long-awaited South Bay BART extension have been dogged by unforeseen delays. The new Milpitas and Berryessa stations have been complete for more than a year, but are sitting idle and unused while BART conducts exhaustive tests on the new track and facilities.
And if this new delay is inevitable, members of the public say they hope it's the last the project faces.
"There's going to be some erosion of public trust in agencies who can't meet deadlines or are over budget. That's always a risk. And that's always a risk when you want to go back to voters and ask for more," said downtown resident and developer Mark Lazzarini.
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