Wednesday marked a milestone for transportation in the Bay Area. After initially beginning the taxing and plans for a Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) extension into the heart of the Silicon Valley 30 years ago, the BART initiative to the South Bay is finally coming to fruition.
Community members, sponsors, and politicians that helped make it a reality gathered to take a breather and look back at those responsible for its success, as well as the project’s future. Carl Guardino, the CEO of Silicon Valley Leadership Group and Chair of California Transportation Comission led the discussion, and former mayor Ron Gonzalez, current mayor Chuck Reed, as well as Congressman Mike Honda, Councilmember Sam Liccardo, and Nuria Fernandez, the general manager of Valley Transportation Authority, among others made remarks.
Guardino noted, “We sit at the earth’s epicenter of innovation and job creation in Silicon Valley, but that as a community we never step back and breathe, to see the results we have so rapidly tried to attain. This is highly true in the tech field, but also true in this dense, fast-paced population that is ever changing.” Guardino continued, highlighting that this last allocation of funds towards the BART extension in San José would connect the Bay Area, and provide congestion alleviation that will benefit the community overall.
Former San José mayor Ron Gonzalez took the podium, recalling his role in bringing the project to the forefront. He mentioned a point which drove him and kept him going for 8 years as mayor. “My love for San José, the Silicon Valley, and the realization that this project has the potential of connecting not just the biggest city in the bay area, but the best city in the bay area and the larger bay area.”
Gonzalez also said that commuters were the simplest measure of the impact of this transportation system, highlighting that “any transportation system should be measured on its ability to get people from work and back home in time for dinner. A simple notion.” This is why his initiatives, along with those that took the torch into the 2000’s had the support of a large portion of the community, bringing an alternative to the clogged up freeway systems of the bay.
Next up was mayor Chuck Reed, who started with “Mark the happening of a miracle. Somebody is destined for sainthood. A miracle has happened in California. We’re getting the last check of more than a 700 million dollar promise that was made decades ago.” This included 3 governors, Davis, Schwarzenegger, and Brown, as well as countless others who managed to deliver this “miracle” extension. Reed noted that even during the recession and dips in employment they faired through, even with opportunities to spend that BART extension money elsewhere.
So it was not only a day to thank those that helped, but to recollect the memories and the struggles of getting this project off to a start. Guardino said, “You need folks that are willing to put their wallets where their words are, and to roll up their sleeves and get the job done.” The Bay Area Rapid Transit extension, with new stops in Milpitas and finally in the Berryessa neighborhood, will open in 2017. The project is currently 10 months ahead of schedule, perhaps due to the fast-paced nature of the Silicon Valley.