Community and transit leaders gathered Friday alongside the Union Pacific railroad tracks and Lower Berryessa Creek in Milpitas to herald the first physical sign of progress toward a BART extension into Silicon Valley.
The groundbreaking event did not signify actual BART construction, but rather the relocation of freight rail lines, clearing the path for construction of a corridor that will one day connect the BART system to San Jose, Santa Clara and Milpitas.
However Michael Burns, general manager of Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, said this preparatory project is indeed a milestone in the decades-long effort to expand BART to the Silicon Valley.
"We're actually in construction on efforts to get the BART system down to Santa Clara County," he said.
The freight relocation project will move utilities and Union Pacific freight rail tracks 75 feet to the west along an 8-mile corridor, said project spokeswoman Bernice Alaniz. The Santa Clara Valley Water District is paying for $16 million of the $36 million project in order to incorporate some flood control measures and improve several crossings along the creek.
The VTA is the lead agency on the BART extension project that involves cooperation from numerous towns, agencies and other groups. The proposed route would add 16 miles of track, extending from the yet-unbuilt Warm Springs station in Fremont. The project would add a station in Milpitas and four in San Jose and end with another station in Santa Clara.
The VTA acquired the railroad corridor from Union-Pacific in 2002, Burns said, and relocating the tracks was part of the agreement.