A federal official went on a tour Wednesday at future BART sites that will address traffic congestion in the South Bay and is one of many projects in Santa Clara County that can receive additional funds through a sales tax measure facing voters in November.
U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx spent the morning on a tour of the BART Silicon Valley project run by the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority. Reps. Mike Honda and Zoe Lofgren, VTA CEO Nuria Fernandez and other local officials also joined the secretary during his visit.
Foxx went to the future Berryessa station in San Jose, the endpoint for the first phase of the project that is nearly completed.
He also visited the second phase that stretches through San Jose's Alum Rock neighborhood, downtown area and Diridon transit station and ends at the Santa Clara Caltrain station, where he arrived in a red VTA bus for a news briefing this afternoon with about a dozen local and federal leaders.
"The country needs this region to be one in which people can get from place to place," Foxx said. "Our economy depends on it."
The secretary said it was "incredible" to see the region address its future transportation needs as travel times will increase with more people expected to arrive to Silicon Valley in the next 30 years.
The transportation projects in the county are creating a multimodal system in which people can get around by taking transit, which allows for more predictable travel times, Foxx said.
"Those choices are going to be the difference between people getting stuck in traffic and people having a good quality of life," he said.
San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo credited the secretary for bringing together $900 million for the first phase of the BART project that helped build the Berryessa station, which is set to open a year early in 2017.
Liccardo said he's one of 101 local officials who support VTA's Measure B, a half-cent tax for 30 years that would help the transit agency with transportation projects, including the second phase of BART Silicon Valley. It will VTA obtain additional funding from state and federal governments.
"We can leverage billions of dollars of federal and state money, but they'll only move if we move first," Liccardo said.
If passed by a two-thirds majority, Measure B is poised to help the VTA collect $6 billion to $6.5 billion to fund transportation projects, repair roads and help improve connections for bicyclists and pedestrians throughout the county, agency officials said.
The second phase of the BART project would receive $1.5 billion and $314 million would go to help improve the Caltrain corridor, according to the VTA.
Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez, who also supports the measure, highlighted the importance of additional funding.
"Silicon Valley and our needs are not only on the map of our local region, but on a national level. People understand the importance of the economic vibrancy of the community," said Chavez, also a VTA board chairwoman.