MILPITAS - The city manager of Milpitas said today it was "unfair" for the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority to blame the city for any delays in extending BART following a court ruling prohibiting a road closure the city opposed.
City Manager Thomas Williams said it was a "shame" that the VTA decided to go to Superior Court when the city denied the agency's request to close down all traffic on Dixon Landing Road for eight months to hasten construction work on the BART train route.
"Their decision to sue caught us by surprise," Williams said. "We have worked with the VTA very well."
A judge ruled in favor of Milpitas last week, meaning that the VTA will have to build next to Dixon Landing over an 18-month period with two lanes of traffic flowing on the street, VTA officials said.
The VTA on Monday at first suggested in media accounts that the ruling might delay completion of the 10-mile BART train extension to San Jose by a year to 2018.
But later in the day, VTA spokeswoman Brandi Childress insisted that was not the case and the BART project, with new stations at Milpitas and Berryessa in north San Jose, would be finished and ready for passengers as planned by 2017.
Williams said that the VTA was out of line to imply that the city's actions over Dixon Landing would affect the project's timeline.
"Using Milpitas as a scapegoat for them to be behind schedule is unfair and without merit," Williams said.
The city of 70,000 residents opposed the agency's request to shut down all four lanes of Dixon Landing because it is one of only three major streets going east and west through a city that is already clogged with excessive traffic and complaints from residents about it, Williams said.
"It would have a significant traffic impact and also be a detriment to businesses in that area," Williams said.
The VTA had planned last year to close only two of the four lanes in the roadway to permit traffic flow but then at the end of 2013 decided to press the city for encroachment permits to shut all four, according to Williams.
Traffic on one of the two other major east-west thoroughfares in the city, state Highway 237, also known as Calaveras Boulevard, is currently "horrendous" at the intersection of Interstate Highway 880, Williams said.
Milpitas is working with the VTA and Caltrans on solutions to the traffic woes on Calaveras and I-880 and still looks forward to the BART extension into Milpitas, Williams said.
The city estimates that about 7 percent of its residents would ride on BART trains once the station opens.
"It's going to be an important project," Williams said.
The projected second phase of the BART extension, a 6.1-mile stretch from Berryessa west to downtown San Jose and Santa Clara, would have a greater role in reducing traffic congestion in Milpitas, since more city residents work in Silicon Valley companies near those cities, he said.
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