Restarting VTA light rail after mass shooting could require state funding, emergency declaration

The Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority could resume service along its idled light rail lines in the next several weeks, a spokeswoman said, with an infusion of cash from Sacramento and emergency powers for the transit agency’s leaders likely to be involved in the effort.

The three-line rail network that runs for more than 40 miles through the South Bay has been shut down for more than three weeks, since soon after a VTA employee opened fire inside the system’s San Jose yard early on the morning of May 26, killing nine of his colleagues before taking his own life.

VTA initially replicated its train service with buses, but soon shut those down as well to preserve coaches for regular bus routes. As a result, thousands of riders who once relied on the light rail system have had to find another way to get around.

Restarting the service is a logistically and emotionally challenging task because the Guadalupe Yard, the sprawling complex where the shooting took place, is the nerve center of the rail system, where trains are stored, serviced and dispatched.

VTA hopes to resume service on the system “within the next several weeks,” Hendler Ross said.

There are many unanswered questions about what it will take to do so, however.

Up in the air are questions like whether VTA’s light rail trains would run again, or if the lines would once again have “bus bridges.”

It’s also unclear what the authority plans to do with the Guadalupe Yard — if it will undertake significant renovations of the complex, as has been done at other mass shooting sites, and whether VTA will build temporary facilities from which to run and maintain the system in the meantime.

With budget negotiations unfolding in the Legislature, and California flush with a record surplus, state Sen. Dave Cortese, D-San Jose, said he is seeking funding from the state that could help VTA in the effort. A spokeswoman for Cortese declined to say how much he is seeking, though, or how it would be used.

“We are working with local community leaders and labor leaders to asses and fund immediate needs to assist workers and get trains back on the streets,” Cortese said in a statement.

The VTA board will hold a special meeting Friday morning where the authority’s leaders will request a declared emergency as a result of the shooting, granting its general manager expanded power to lease temporary space or contract for repairs to the Guadalupe Yard without approval from the board.

VTA won’t have to enter into the typical bidding process if the request is approved, and the general manager could spend as much as $2 million, up from $1 million, without board approval. One reason for the change, Hendler Ross said, is that the VTA board is not scheduled to meet again until August.

“They’re trying to move more quickly than would otherwise happen,” Hendler Ross said.

Check back for updates.

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Author: Nico Savidge

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