BART extension to South Bay progressing ahead of schedule

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KTVU) -- The long-awaited BART extension project in the South Bay is getting a sizable boost thanks to a large grant from the federal government.

President Obama announced this year's budget proposal calls for $165 million for the $2.3 billion project. If all goes as planned, riders in the South Bay could be using BART as early as 2017.

Slow and steady is how the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority describes work on the BART Silicon Valley Extension Project that is now halfway done.

"This effort is unprecedented," said Bernice Alaniz of the VTA. "It's the first time an entity other than BART is building an extension of the regional BART system."

The 10-mile corridor begins at the Warm Springs Bart station in South Fremont. Then it will stretch from Alameda County into Santa Clara County with two BART stations with one in Milpitas across from the Great Mall and the other in Berryessa in North San Jose next to the flea market.

VTA is building this extension thanks to several funding sources including a $900 million federal grant. It's an agreement made in 2012 so every year VTA will get $90 million to $165 million.

"It's great news," said Alaniz. "We are anticipating these annual allocations so the money is really dispersed throughout seven years of this agreement."

The money that will help lay down tracks, build grade separations and underground trenches like the one currently being built at Sierra and Lundy in San Jose.

The project was chosen for the expected 23,000 riders come opening day and the economic benefit those riders will bring.

"Overall return on investment has been on the low side $4 and the high side $10 for every dollar invested," said Alaniz.

"It's been a long time," said Carlos Balgos who lives in San Jose. "I've waited for this. I've never tried BART before here in this area. I think it's about time."

Balgos plans to be one of the new riders. Tori Bell of San Jose said she's tired of driving 45 minutes to catch BART in Fremont and is happy to see construction taking shape.

"Yes I will be on the first train," said Bell. "I'm excited. It's good to bring BART out to San Jose. You have to drive all the time."

"It's going to be helping a lot of people in the area," said Nestor Barberena of San Jose.

Soon, VTA will begin constructing the parking structures for these two new stations.

The next phase to the project is another six miles from Berryessa to Santa Clara which is expected to be completed in 10 years.