VTA hopes to lighten traffic, reduce stress

More than three years have passed since Santa Clara County voters approved the Valley Transportation Authority’s Measure B in November 2008 for a 1/8-cent sales tax increase for a Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) extension.

And now, a retail transaction and use tax will officially go into effect beginning in July 2012 after it was approved by the Santa Clara County VTA Board of Directors Dec. 8.

The ordinance was dependent on whether VTA secured sufficient state and federal funds for the construction of the 16-mile BART extension that will add stations in Milpitas, San Jose and Santa Clara.

“It’s set up that the federal government, they weren’t going to give the money to build that line (extension) until there’s a guaranteed way to operate that line,” said VTA Board Member Perry Woodward, who represents Gilroy, Morgan Hill and Milpitas.

The guaranteed operation funds of the extension will come from the sales tax, which is approved till June 30, 2042. Measure A, a half-cent tax approved in 2000 and implemented in 2006, was the first 30-year tax increase that affected the BART related project, said VTA spokesperson Brandi Childress.

According to the action item by the VTA Board of Directors, the agency has received $529.5 million of allocations from the California Transportation Commission, in excess of the $240 million of state funding required by the ballot measure. VTA is under negotiations for the $900 million full funding grant agreement for federal funds, scheduled to begin in Feb. 2012.

If approved in February, ground breaking for construction can begin as soon as April or May, said Childress. Completion for the 10-mile first phase of the project, which will add two stations in Milpitas and in the San Jose neighborhood of Berryessa, should be in late 2016 or early 2017. The total project is estimated to cost $2.2 billion.

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