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VTA Mass Shooting: Light Rail Restart Postponed; Site May Be Demolished To Ease Trauma

SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) – Nearly two months after nine Santa Clara VTA light rail employees were killed in a mass shooting at the railyard, the agency has postponed the date for restarting light rail service.

The site could be remodeled or torn down so survivors never have to step foot into the buildings again.

"I think it's what most people would think of is, just very traumatic, horrific event happened there and is that some place that you want to go in and you are going to be reminded of that everyday," said Valley Transportation Authority Board of Directors Chairperson Glenn Hendricks.

The future of buildings A and B, which are located at the Guadalupe railyard off of San Pedro Street and Younger Avenue, were discussed during the board meeting Tuesday. But the talks are preliminary, and funding has yet to be determined. The work is expected to be in the tens of millions.

"There was some damage done to the facility in terms of technical damage, infrastructure damage," said VTA Spokesperson Stacey Hendler Ross.

The state's money, which is expected to be provided to the VTA once signed off by the governor, is earmarked for immediate needs such as mental health resources and acquiring temporary locations and won't be used for remodeling or demolishing of the two buildings.

"We're really trying to work directly with the employees who were there and getting them to, 'OK, what are your direct concerns, what can we do to help you through this process,'" said Hendricks.

The board also discussed a new six-phase light rail reopening timeline that was released to the public on Tuesday. The transit agency announced it planned to resume service by the end of July, but now says resuming service will take longer.

"We understand that we have a responsibility to our community and we are trying to work diligently and compassionately to get light rail service restored," VTA spokesperson Stacey Hendler-Ross told KPIX 5.

The VTA stopped light rail service back on May 26, the date of the mass shooting at the Guadalupe rail yard when an employee gunned down nine of his coworkers and then himself.

As of Tuesday, the agency said it doesn't have a hard restart date, but will be phasing service back in over time, perhaps over as long as three months.

Ross told KPIX 5, last week, they had hoped to have service up and running by the end of July. However, the new plan shows a potential mid-August reactivation date.

For tens of thousands of people who depend on the light rail, it's been tough to get around.

"Yeah, we definitely need the trains back," said Jose Morales of San Jose.

"It's been hectic, it's been really difficult, it's been really hard without the light rail because the light rail was pretty convenient," said Charles Davis, who is now getting around on buses that he said are not as reliable.

"The scheduling is off," Davis told KPIX 5. "If you have business to take care of, you usually can schedule it around the light rail. But not around the bus system because the bus system is too iffy."

In a report to the Board of Directors, VTA said it's on the first two phases of a five-point restarting plan.

The agency is working to make sure all employees will be ready to resume full duties and setting up alternate work sites because of physical damage at Guadalupe and the emotional trauma now tied to that location.

"Our priority and focus is being able to try and serve our customers that are really relying, depend upon our service, and that as we bring the service back on we want to take care of the employees who've been really heavily impacted by this," said Hendricks.

The phase is expected to last as long as another week. It could be another two to almost three weeks after that to get to phase five when the VTA light rail is ready for passengers again. The timeline shows that service will increase by September.

"We're trying to determine whether or not we're going to repair and rebuild what's at Guadalupe or demolish it and start all over again," said Hendler-Ross.

Other phases will include re-starting trains, first without customers, and then moving to full paid service, possibly sometime this fall.

Maria Medina contributed to this report.

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