Former San Jose mayor Tom McEnery questions BART’s South Bay expansion project – NBC Bay Area


Former San Jose Mayor Tom McEnery is not the first to voice frustration over the BART expansion project. But starting with an op-ed he wrote with prominent developer Lew Wolfe, McEnery said it might be a good idea for the agency in charge to cut their losses.

Santa Clara County chose not to be part of the BART system when it was started in the 70’s.

That’s all changed now. BART and the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) began linking the system in 2009, completing the Berryessa extension in 2020.

But this next phase is more ambitious, going through and underneath downtown San Jose through to Santa Clara. The project price tag has jumped from around $5 billion to $12.8 billion and the completion date has been moved from 2026 to 2030 and to 2037.

McEnery, who has business interests in downtown San Jose, once supported the project but now is publicly lambasting the VTA and said he like to see the project scrapped and completed with a bus system.

“The other day NASA came out and their latest mission to Mars is going to cost $11 billion. I said to somebody, ‘With another billion, they can get to Berryessa,’” he said.

McEnery added if nothing else, he would like outside experts brought in.

“There’s people who can tell us, ‘Will this be obsolete by the time it’s finished?’” he said. “With the things that are happening in technology, the fact that driverless automobiles, driverless buses, there is a whole number of things way beyond my ability to predict it. But there are people we can get and we should.”

Carolyn Gonot, VTA’s CEO and general manager gave her thoughts.

“To insinuate that VTA cannot build a project. If you look at most projects within this county, VTA has built them on time and on budget. I mean, the first phase of the BART extension was built a $100 million under budget. Over 5 % under budget,” she said.

Gonot added she doesn’t believe the critics speak for the federal agencies, who will fund the project or the public.

“I don’t necessarily believe that the voters voted three times to have their sales taxes go to a ‘bus centric’ or ‘light rail’ system to serve passenger rail around the county. They want BART,” she said.

Regardless, the VTA is literally going to plow ahead with a groundbreaking in mid-June that will start the underground tunneling.


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