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SJ BART Tunnel May Bring 5-Year Construction Zone To Santa Clara Street

SAN JOSE (KPIX) -- One of San Jose's main streets could become a long-term construction zone. A panel is seriously considering a twin tunnel option for the San Jose BART Project.

The project would cause the most disruption to Santa Clara Street which runs right through the heart of downtown.

Businesses aren't thrilled about the idea of 5 years of digging. The BART trains are coming to downtown San Jose but not everyone is on board.

The impact will definitely impact small businesses on Santa Clara street where BART will tunnel underground.

Daniel Zubizarreta worries about the digging, the dust and the disruption in front of his city seafood restaurant.

"It's going to be a mess. I'm afraid they are going to close the sidewalks between first and second streets where there will be no foot traffic at all," says.

A peer review panel set up by BART is recommending a twin tunnel design, which lays tracks side by side. It's a familiar layout that BART has used before.

VTA officials say it would also help streamline the project's funding of which $1.5 billion is not yet secure.

"The twin tunnels would be easier," says Brandi Childress, VTA Spokesperson. "It would be less of an uphill battle for us to get into the federal funding pipeline."

Twin tunnels would require a large excavation. Picture an open trench on Santa Clara for the tracks and underground station.

"You essentially have a big pit in the middle of a thriving downtown core," says Childress.

There is another design choice: A large single bore that lays one track on top of the other and it does not require a station box, so there would be less digging.

It's new technology that so far, has only been used once, in Barcelona.

"We've seen how it works in Barcelona where it's very effective," says Mayor Sam Liccardo. "This is where the industry is moving and if this is an innovation that works, we should be deploying it here in Silicon Valley."

Mayor Liccardo says he will push for the single bore method even if it's not BART's first choice.

"We're going to build this system once for the next century. And so if it takes more time to do it right, then we should do it," he says.

For business owner Zubizarreta, the choice is simple.

"Take the best plan that will least effect the businesses."

The BART board will decide which plan to pursue when it meets in January. The project is slated to begin in 2019.

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