SJ Mayor wants VTA to take new look at BART

Gilroy – San Jose Mayor Ron Gonzales wants the staff of the
Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority to draw up a new
capital improvement plan and find more money to bring BART to San
Jose.
Gilroy – San Jose Mayor Ron Gonzales wants the staff of the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority to draw up a new capital improvement plan and find more money to bring BART to San Jose.

In a memo distributed to his fellow VTA board members, Gonzales urged his colleagues to direct staff to formulate a plan that assumes a new sales tax and reworks BART and other VTA projects to make them more cost-efficient.

Doing so, Gonzales said, will free up as much as $1 billion for the $4.3 billion BART extension, and other high-priority projects. Gonzales hopes the board will take action on his memo in September, shortly after new VTA head Michael Burns begins his tenure.

The controversial BART project is suffering from a lack of funding. The bad economy of the last several years has damaged hopes of bringing BART to downtown San Jose and the airport. The VTA depends on sales tax for 80 percent of its revenue, and the slumbering Silicon Valley economy has cost it tens of millions of dollars since 2000. The economic malaise afflicting California and the country has held up more than $1.5 billion in expected state and federal funding.

The VTA expects to ask voters to approve a new sales tax measure next year, in addition to the tax increase improved in 2000. A recent survey showed tepid support for a new tax measure, and Santa Clara County officials are now considering going to voters next year with a tax that would cover social services and transportation, but potentially provide less money to the BART project than if VTA were to have its own tax measure.

Morgan Hill Mayor Kennedy, who will sit on the VTA board next year and has expressed concern that BART will prevent the agency from pursuing a more comprehensive transit plan with more benefits for South County, said Thursday that he will support a VTA tax measure but would prefer to see it folded in with the county’s broad measure.

“I would prefer that we have one sales tax measure for the whole of the county,” Kennedy said. “Maybe have a half-cent tax that would cover transportation, social services, fund the cities.”

As to concerns that Gonzales wants to get the VTA board to commit to a tax measure before its membership changes next year, with more members who aren’t ardent supporters of BART, Kennedy said such a move isn’t necessary.

“I think regardless [of BART} there’s broad support from all the cities on the VTA board members that the VTA does need some tax measure,” Kennedy said.

Gonzales spokesman David Vossbrink said Thursday that Mayor has not taken a stance on the county’s potentially competing tax measure.

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