Slow progress on VTA contruction challenges San Jose neighborhood

It was supposed to drive more business to one part of San Jose, but instead it is steering customers away. Business owners said they are struggling to keep their doors open because of a VTA construction project that's now months behind schedule.

In what's known as the Portugal area of San Jose lies Licia’s Imports. It’s been open for a year and the store is a dream for Sergio and Licia Brasil.

"We are trying to keep our traditions alive like the Holy Spirit crowns, the crowns for queens, and the ribbon,” said Licia Brasil.

Brasil said a stalled bus rapid transit project that will provide service from the SAP Center in downtown San Jose to East San Jose is putting the brakes on business. Construction began last year and the unfinished mess is causing traffic headaches that keep customers away.

The Mexico Bakery sells sweet bread. Bakery owner Jose Landin estimates his business has lost thousands of dollars.

“I am very frustrated,” said Landin. “I am really pissed off at the manner that VTA not really addressing the issue.”

“It really was an unprecedented situation with this contractor,” said Brandi Childress of the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority.

The VTA parted ways with Goodfellow Top Grade Construction for safety reasons. The general contractor hit a gas line back in July. The VTA is now going out to bid for another contractor.

A VTA spokesperson said the $114 million project won't be completed until December of next year.

“We have apologized to this community,” said Childress. “We are very sincere to understanding what the disruptions have been for them.”

San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo agreed that business owners deserve compensation.

“Construction has been badly managed and the businesses are really hurting,” said Liccardo.

Liccardo said the city is looking at a $50,000 cash compensation program and marketing tools such as holiday lights along the street. For now, business owners are bracing for the holidays unsure if this season will be merrier than the last.

“If it continues like this we don't know what's going to happen,” said Sergio Brasil. “We don’t want to close.”