Bay Area Rapid Transit Rail Expansion Opens Line to San Jose

Brings service to new areas along San Francisco Bay’s east side; sets the stage for planned BART underground extension through downtown San Jose, Santa Clara.

Bay Area commuters have a new rail connection to California’s Silicon Valley, thanks to a recently completed 10-mile extension of the San Francisco Bay Area’s transit system.


The new $2.3 billion Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) line, Phase I of the Silicon Valley extension, extends service from Warm Springs station in Fremont, completes a critical piece of a larger transportation project that will eventually connect service to downtown San Jose and Santa Clara.


“Bringing BART to San Jose has been discussed for several decades,” said Raul Laborin, who served as WSP USA’s close-out project manager for the first phase of the project. “The transit link to the rest of the Bay Area will provide much needed traffic relief and will also help transform what the City of San Jose will become in the future.”


WSP, in a joint venture, provided system design and design support services during construction for the first phase of the project on behalf of the client, the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Agency (VTA). The firm’s responsibilities included systems engineering design criteria/standards, communication, electrical and train control systems design, and coordination of trackwork design.


Passenger service on this extension began on June 13, and commuters can now connect from the Santa Clara Valley to Oakland and San Francisco. Two stations were constructed along the line – Milpitas and Berryessa/North San Jose – where service currently ends.



Berryessa/North San Jose is one of two stations constructed along the extension and is currently where BART service ends.

Historic Growth

The vision of bringing BART service to the South Bay began with study development as far back as 1984, but it would be another 20 years before planning finally hit its stride with a WSP joint venture contract in 2004. Five years later the project was split into two phases, with construction beginning in 2012.


“When the BART District was formed in the 1960s, Santa Clara County opted out,” Laborin said. “But as the population and job growth rose dramatically in the area, congestion along the I-880 and I-680 corridors grew as well. Studies showed that a BART extension was the best transit solution on the east side of the Bay to provide an alternative to these congested corridors.”


The march south toward Santa Clara took off in 2018 with the completion of the five-mile Warm Springs extension, which goes underneath Fremont Central Park and Lake Elizabeth and crosses the seismically active Hayward Fault twice. Prior to the opening of Warm Springs station, there was no public transportation link to BART south of Fremont and commuters had to travel to Fremont Station, where it was difficult to find parking. WSP provided design and construction-phase services on the Warm Springs extension.


WSP was also able to provide additional design services associated with demolition and noise abatement projects adjacent to the two new stations. Demolition design occurred at both stations, while noise abatement occurred at the Milpitas station and involved design of new concrete sound walls to mitigate noise to a neighboring multi-unit housing development.


During construction WSP worked with VTA’s design-build contractor and BART to help resolve systems related construction issues, as well as bridge any communication gaps between all stakeholders.


WSP has supported VTA with project development and financial strategy since 2012. Key roles include public-private partnership advisory, value for money analysis, and financial capacity analysis. WSP is also providing a comprehensive suite of transit financial planning services to VTA, including funding analysis and financial modeling of capital and operating plans.

Going Underground

Phase II of the project is entering the implementation stage. It will extend the line west from Berryessa toward the San Francisco Peninsula. Plans include four additional stations: 28th Street/Little Portugal, Downtown San Jose, Diridon, and the terminus at Santa Clara.


“Phase II will be the largest single public infrastructure project ever to be constructed in Santa Clara County,” Laborin said. “It is estimated that this extension will carry 52,000 passengers to destinations throughout the Bay Area every day by 2035.”


About five miles of the second phase will be a large single bore tunnel, planned to minimize disruption to downtown San Jose during construction.


“Single bore differs from the traditional twin-bore method because station platforms are constructed within the tunnel rather than via cut-and-cover station boxes, and access to the platforms will be through off-street structures and mined connections to the tunnel,” Laborin said. “Using a large diameter single-bore tunnel for a project like this is an innovative approach.” 


The proposed single bore tunnel will be among the largest in the U.S. for a transit project.


Also as part of a joint venture, WSP is currently providing program management and preliminary engineering services to the Valley Transit Authority (VTA) for Phase II. Currently four separate construction packages are being planned. All project delivery methods (design-build, progressive design-build) are being considered by the VTA.


Preliminary design efforts also include assisting the VTA with transit-oriented development (TOD) planning efforts at three of the proposed station areas. TOD plans include mixed-use development, multi-storied parking garages and opportunities for economic investment/advancement in each of the new station areas.


Construction is scheduled to begin in 2021, with completion targeted for 2028-30. Phase II was the first project to be accepted into the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) Expedited Project Delivery (EPD) program. FTA will provide $1.25 billion funding for the project. The WSP JV team is assisting the VTA with navigating the EPD process.


When the 16.5-mile (Phase I & II) project is complete, BART will operate and maintain the system under an agreement executed with VTA, which owns the property, facilities and equipment related to the project.



The new BART line extends service from Warm Springs station in Fremont and will eventually connect service to downtown San Jose and Santa Clara.

Once-in-a-Lifetime Opportunity

WSP’s transit expertise and experience is well known by both VTA and BART, so the WSP JV emerged as a trusted consultant for both agencies.


“When Phase I entered construction, WSP was able to draw upon its many years of BART design experience to help bring construction issues to a successful resolution,” Laborin said. “For Phase II, WSP’s tunnel, systems and geotech expertise helped move the two agencies towards an agreement on a large single-bore approach.”


The grand opening of the Phase I extension occurred in June amid COVID-19 shelter in place ordinances, so public involvement was limited. However, the event was broadcast and featured several presentations from representatives of the VTA, BART, politicians and key stakeholders.


Laborin has been grateful to play an important role in the creation of the extension.


“I draw a great sense of pride in knowing I had the opportunity, through WSP, to help deliver the Phase I extension and work towards a similar conclusion with Phase II,” he said. “I have been able to witness WSP’s transit expertise in action in several facets and appreciate the many years of involvement that the company commits to delivering projects of this magnitude. Projects like this are often once-in-a-lifetime/career opportunities.”


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