Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) and Santa Clara County officials have agreed on a major expansion of the light rail network project in California. The $342m Vasona Light Rail Project is one of three light rail extensions underway in Silicon Valley.

Vasona light rail project

The Vasona Light Rail project consists of a 7.3km (6.8-mile) extension to the existing 30.5-mile VTA light rail system. Phase one connects San Jose with Winchester station in downtown Campbell, 8.6km (5.3 miles) away. Work started in March 2001 and will run until February 2003. The extension will open in November 2004, one of three projects VTA expects to complete in that year, the others being extensions to Tasman East and Capitol Lines.

Work on Phase 2 to Vasona Junction in Los Gatos, the Winchester Extension, which will connect end-on to Phase 1 at Winchester, will cost $59m. A grant of $15m is being made from the State General Fund. The construction schedule for Phase 2 is dependent upon available funding.

Part of the line will run over existing rail routes. As part of the work, eleven new stations are being provided along the line to cater for the 8,000-9,000 passengers expected to use it every day.

Phase One of the project is costing $283.4 million. Funding is from the VTA ($16.5 m), Federal government funds ($51.6m), Sales Taxes ($56.4m) and the remainder from the Transportation Improvement Program.

By the time Phase One’s halfway-mark (in terms of cash spent) had been reached in mid-2002, the construction work was on-budget and on-time. Construction costs amount to $148.6m of the total cost of Phase One. The rest of the money is split as follows: Consultants £54.9m; Property purchase $50.6m; VTA labour $6 million; Real Estate services $7.6m and project contingency $4.6m.

Car parking will be provided at all eleven Vasona Line stations to offer a park-and-ride style service into San Jose.

Infrastructure

The project started in December 1999 with environmental hearings. Construction of Phase one started in May 2001 and runs until Summer 2004, ready for revenue service in November 2004.

All the line is above ground, except San Jose Diridon station, where a 259m (850ft) cut-and-cover tunnel is being built, accounting for almost a third of the construction costs. Work at this site was the first on the project. The tunnel will allow the light rail to pass under the existing heavy-rail station and Caltrain, Amtrak and ACE tracks. The tunnel is expected to be completed in February 2003. The new light rail station will be on the west side of San Jose Diridon yard.

Construction is being undertaken by: Meridian, Kingman and Hamilton Structures (grade-separated crossing at Hamilton Avenue, Campbell); R&L Brosmar (bridges and track laying), Stacy & Witbeck (freight track relocation and cable ducts), Condon-Johnson and Associates (Diridon Tunnel), IMPulse NC (substations) and Mass Electric Construction Company (overhead catenary and traction power system).

Rolling stock

The line will use low-floor Light Rail Vehicles (LRVs) and will be fully accessible for the disabled and comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). They eliminate the need for wheelchair lifts, and provide a level platform-to-train access for all users. Platforms will be 355.6mm (14in) high.

The trains will have several safety features, operators will be able to monitor train systems through a touch-screen computer and will use video cameras instead of conventional rear-view mirrors.

Signalling and communications

The contractor for Combined Communications & Signals (Contract S945), is GE Transportation Systems Global Signal. They are initially designing the systems including Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA), preliminary design and Signalling Block design.

Central Control System (CCS) software will remotely monitor and control various facility components from the Operations Control Centre at the Guadalupe Division.

The future

The phase two extension will create a new terminus adjacent to a major highway and have park-and-ride facilities. Construction of the 2.4km (1.5-mile) Phase two will start when funding has been obtained.

In addition, an extra station at West San Carlos (west of San Jose Diridon station) on the Phase 1 section is planned.