Extending the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system to Silicon Valley--downtown San José, California and the nearby San José Mineta International Airport--from Alameda County is the greatest public works challenge facing Santa Clara County.
The Mineta Transportation Institute Hot Spot forum series, which was designed to bring resolution to controversial issues, continued with a look at the BART-to-Silicon Valley project on April 21, 2005, with an event subtitled What's Next? It was the second MTI forum on the subject; the first was How Now?, presented in 2001 after voters approved funding for the project.
Since then, however, the money available to do the work diminished with the shrinking economy. The Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) was forced to cut existing services and look for new financing. Although funds already had been spent on the project, controversy arose anew when federal transportation officials changed the funding guidelines, and the VTA board began contemplating new taxes.
MTI and co-sponsors provided the public with an opportunity to review the BART-to-Silicon Valley project and consider the alternatives prior to the pending VTA board action. Transportation, political, and community leaders filled the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Department auditorium in San José and engaged in a lively, yet collegial, discussion.
Carolyn Gonot, chief development officer for the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA), led off with an overview of the status of the BART project. Carl Guardino, president and CEO of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, followed with a summary of a public opinion survey that showed continued strong support for bringing BART to the South Bay. A panel made up of Cindy Chavez, vice mayor, City of San José and vice chair, VTA Board of Directors; Dennis Kennedy, mayor, City of Morgan Hill and VTA board alternate; and Ron Swegles, vice mayor, City of Sunnyvale and VTA Policy Advisory Committee (PAC) member, was asked to answer three questions:
Carl Guardino joined the panel for a question-and-answer session, which closed with an effort to reach some conclusions. The panel agreed that all Santa Clara County cities' willingness to compromise was key to creating the consensus needed to move the project forward.
The event wrapped up with the keynote speech by California Department of Transportation Director Will Kempton. Mr. Kempton reviewed the parallels between the 1984 and 2000 Measures A and urged the panelists to build consensus and explore project development alternatives.
Co-sponsors for this event were the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, the California Department of Transportation/District 4, the Commonwealth Club of California, and the Leagues of Women Voters of Santa Clara County.