The Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) broke ground March 21 on the $114 million Santa Clara/Alum Rock Bus Rapid Transit Project, which officials say will provide passengers with faster, more frequent service in and around the city of San Jose, and will be the first of its kind in the Bay Area.

Scheduled for completion in fall 2015, the 7.2-mile-long project will connect the "culturally rich," east San Jose neighborhoods to downtown’s art, entertainment, retail, restaurants, business and residential districts. Construction includes 11 new light rail-like stations along the city's busy Capitol Expressway, Alum Rock Avenue, and Santa Clara Street with off-board ticketing machines, attractive shelters, enhanced lighting, and real-time information signage.

The new transit project will boast all-door boarding, traffic signal priority that holds green lights longer for approaching buses, and a dedicated median bus-only lane. The new articulated hybrid vehicles will seat up to 50 passengers and offer modern interiors, with on-board Wi-Fi. In addition, pedestrian improvements, signal upgrades, new streetlights, new landscaping and roadway resurfacing will be implemented throughout the corridor.

The VTA last November awarded a $54 million construction contract to Livermore, CA-based Goodfellow Top Grade for the civil and station improvements on project.

Current work on the project includes utility relocations along Alum Rock Avenue, with San Jose Water and AT&T and PG&E relocation getting involved.  All of the private utility relocation is anticipated to be complete by this summer.  The utility work is managed by the City of San Jose via permits and will result in intermittent short term traffic lane closures.

Other work includes the removal of roughly 135 non-heritage trees from the main project corridor. VTA says that to mitigate the removal process, it will both plant a number of trees and contribute to a City of San Jose managed tree mitigation program.

The project is being funded in part by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), which allocated $90 million from State Proposition 1B funds specifically for the BRT project. The remaining $24 million needed will come from the Measure A Transit Improvements Program, which Santa Clara County  voters in  approved in 2000. This is a 30-year half-cent sales tax devoted to specified public transit capital improvement projects and operations. Measure A passed by a 70.3 percent majority vote.

The VTA, which is responsible for bus, light rail, paratransit operations and countywide transportation planning, says the Santa Clara/Alum Rock Bus Rapid Transit Project is the first of three such projects in the pipeline for the region.