More than a dozen elected officials in the South Bay participated in the maiden voyage Friday between BART's two new stations in Milpitas and northern San Jose's Berryessa neighborhood.
A group including San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors President Cindy Chavez and BART Board President Lateefah Simon began the festivities at the Berryessa Transit Center with celebratory remarks and a ribbon-cutting before boarding the first BART train to carry passengers from the station.
The group then met with a second group of officials including former Rep. Mike Honda, Milpitas Mayor Richard Tran and Federal Transit Administration Region 9 Administrator Ray Tellis for another ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Milpitas station.
"BART's arrival in San Jose marks the most impactful transit expansion in our region in decades, connecting the Bay Area's largest city with its largest transit system," Liccardo said. "I've been pushing for 20 years to bring BART here, and its arrival provides all of us a refreshing moment to cheer amid these uniquely challenging times."
The Berryessa and Milpitas stations opened to the public Saturday when the first train departs from the Berryessa station at 7:56 a.m. on the Richmond line.
BART officials have fought to bring the transit system into San Jose for decades, culminating in the passage of 2000's Measure A and, subsequently, a pair of local sales tax measures to fund the 10-mile, $2.3 billion extension.
The completion of the extension gives BART a total of 50 stations and roughly 130 miles of track around the Bay Area.
"I never imagined BART would play such a big part in my life for so many years," Chavez said. "BART coming to Silicon Valley all comes down to hope and optimism for the future. We are now fully connected across the Bay Area and the region is now connected to us."
The Berryessa project is the first phase of BART and VTA's effort to extend BART service into San Jose and Santa Clara.
The second phase, totaling about 6 miles, is expected to include the construction of subterranean stations at 28th Street in San Jose's Little Portugal, in downtown San Jose near the intersection of Santa Clara and Market streets, the San Jose Diridon rail depot and a ground-level station just north of Avaya Stadium in Santa Clara.
The $5.6 billion second phase is expected to break ground in 2022, with an estimated completion date around 2030. VTA officials changed both of those estimates last year, increasing the price tag by nearly $1 billion and pushing the opening back roughly four years.
In other BART news
Testing has started on BART's new 5-feet-high fare gates at the agency's Richmond station in hopes they can install them throughout their entire system, officials said Wednesday.
The newly designed, swing-style gates were developed by BART engineers and aim to prevent fare evaders from pushing through or jumping over or going under fare gates to avoid paying.
According to officials, the innovative gate design is able to reduce estimated costs for replacing the gates systemwide to $90 million from $150 million.
The new gates are operated with air pressure instead of a motor and have fewer moving parts. They're also able to process a minimum of 30 riders per minute, which is BART's required benchmark to ensure riders can move fast during rush hour.
The new design is being tested on accessible fare gates for riders who need extra space and time like those in wheelchairs or with strollers or bikes.
Back in September 2019, BART's Board of Directors voted unanimously to adopt the swing-style gates and chose the design based on criteria that included reliability, maintainability, capacity, effectiveness, appearance and the ability to integrate with Clipper cards.
This week, BART staff was due to present the new $90 million cost estimate to the board, as well as information about funding and a timeline.
According to BART, part of the funding could come from Measure RR Access Program funds, which voters approved in 2016.