Backing Bart Extension to South Bay

Government, Business Leaders Push Plan

Dozens of government officials and business leaders gathered this morning at San Jose's Diridon Station to encourage voters to pass Measure B, which would bring Bay Area Rapid Transit to the South Bay.

The 16.1-mile project would run from Fremont to Santa Clara and add six stops to the line.

Brandishing golden spikes that will be placed in the ground if the BART extension passes, local leaders gave their opinions on why the $6.1 billion project is vital to the economy of Santa Clara County.

Golden spikes were used in Promontory Summit, Utah, in 1869 when the joining of the Central Pacific and Union Pacific railroads completed the first transcontinental railroad.

With the sounds of train whistles and bus engines in the background, former Secretary of Transportation Norman Y. Mineta said today that BART in the county is long overdue.

"It was a mistake that Santa Clara County opted not to join BART" when the idea was first conceived more than 50 years ago, Mineta said.

"We can correct that mistake and build a transportation system that will join transit all around the Bay together," he said.

The project would connect BART with Caltrain, the Altamont Commuter Express, Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority lines and Amtrak.

Measure B proposes a one-eighth-cent sales tax increase to fund the expansion, which comes out to around $13 a year per resident, San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed said.

Opponents of Measure B said at a news conference last week that they believe the VTA is withholding information on how much the project will really cost, and that the tax is not enough.

Other opposition comes from the fact that VTA has provided informational data to the "Yes on B" campaign. The county counsel's office said that the agency has done nothing illegal, but opponents of the measure say the actions of agency staff have been unethical.

Reed said the project would expand the county economy by $4.4 billion to $6.9 billion and add up to 5,700 permanent jobs.

"It's a very small investment for a very big return," he said.

Reed said he has been talking to CEOs of companies across the county and that transportation - along with education and housing - is a key factor in those companies deciding to stay and grow in the Silicon Valley.

"Gas will go up again, the economy will improve again," Supervisor Liz Kniss said.

If the measure passes, the tax will only be collected if state and federal funding is in place. It would be in effect for 30 years.

Construction would begin in 2013 and end in 2017, according to the county.

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