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[whitespace] Questions about money and parking heat up Vasona Light Rail meeting

Campbell--It was more than just the unusually warm spring evening that had Valley Transportation Authority representatives breaking into a sweat at last week's public scoping meeting for the proposed Vasona light rail project. A standing-room-only crowd of more than 125 Campbell residents packed the Redwood Meeting Room at the Campbell Community Center, vociferously stating their opinions about the $315 million transportation project.

The proposed extension will be built in three phases, adding 6.8 miles and 11 more light rail stations between downtown San Jose and Los Gatos. Currently, $256 million has been approved for phase one, a 4.8 mile stretch from downtown San Jose to downtown Campbell. Construction is slated to begin in November 2001 with service scheduled to commence in summer 2004.

More than 40 people spoke at the scoping meeting, a formal process intended to gather public input to define the focus and content of the project for an Environmental Impact Report. Some speakers gave their approval for the extension, but most communicated their concerns about parking, noise, traffic, funding and location.

Eileen Tam, president of the Downtown Campbell Business Association, was the first of many constituents to debate the parking dilemma. "If there is no funding for phases two and three, at what point will funding be made available for the downtown area if the station is a terminus?" Tam asked. "We're a growing community. Businesses are just starting to thrive and we're getting more and more development in our downtown corridor. There's basically no way for the current parking to satisfy a light rail station."

The proposed design calls for 25 parking spaces along Railway Avenue with plans to acquire an adjacent strip of existing spaces near the corner of Railway and Campbell Avenue. Daily ridership between the Campbell and downtown San Jose stops is estimated at up to 9,000 passengers. Currently, 23,000 people per day use the entire 21-mile Guadalupe light rail system.

For Campbell resident Robert Sneed, a station in downtown Campbell seems implausible. There is no parking in the immediate vicinity, he said. "Visualize 5 p.m. People are coming home from work and they're arriving at the Campbell station. How do they get from there to their homes? Terminating the light rail at [downtown] Campbell is a completely unreasonable situation."

If approved, phases two and three of the federally funded project would extend the light rail line to Vasona Junction in Los Gatos, adding stops at Hacienda and Winchester Avenues. Park-and-ride lots, with a total of 345 parking spaces, are proposed for the Winchester and Vasona stations.

Campbell constituent Eileen Meyers questioned the reality of the Los Gatos extension ever being completed, and wondered about its source of funding. "The existing light rail is not supporting itself, some funding is coming from the government," says Meyers. "Well, if you're moving ahead on a project and funding is cut off, where is the money to complete that project going to come from? I want to know where the money is coming from and will I be impacted by that financially later down the road?"

According to John Hesler, environmental consultant on the project, a combination of funding will help complete the project. "That's why we're applying for federal funds on this project to augment local funds so as much can be constructed as possible."

The VTA's deadline for public input on the project's Environmental Impact Report is Friday, April 23rd. Public hearings will begin in the fall. Address written or email comments to: Julie Klingmann, VTA, Environmental Analysis, 3331 North First Street, Building B, San Jose, CA 95134-1906 or to [email protected].
Sarah Gaffney

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