VTA Offers Cash to Businesses Hurt by BRT Construction Delays

The Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) will partially reimburse businesses hurt by a drawn-out construction project running through San Jose’s Little Portugal neighborhood.

A VTA subcommittee on Friday recommended leasing private land for public parking for affected businesses, posting signs to guide customers through the maze of roadwork and paying cash to business owners who took a financial hit from the under-construction bus line.

Business owners who can quantify the financial toll and are willing to waive all legal claims against the VTA and the city of San Jose can claim up to $50,000, according to the VTA. Those with an immediate need can qualify for $1,000 at a time. Mimi Hernandez, of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Silicon Valley, said her group and neighborhood activists have counted more than 250 businesses that have been affected.

The VTA Board of Directors will vote on the plan when it meets Nov. 5.

Work on a bus rapid transit line—commonly called BRT—has upended a 7.2-mile stretch of the Alum Rock corridor. Construction was originally scheduled to end this fall, but a burst pipeline and other problems pushed back the completion date to late next year or early 2017.

Meanwhile, business owners have been fuming and some have even closed up shop, unable to stay open because of a massive decline in patronage. In the past two weeks alone, a bakery, bridal shop and a Carl’s Jr. plans to close, which would leave dozens of employees without work. Customers hassled by the roadwork have taken their business elsewhere, according to locals.

Most of the businesses along the affected corridor are small, mom-and-pop shops and restaurants, independent boutiques and professional offices. Frustrated by what they called a lack of communication from the VTA and other agencies, they voted to form a new business association as a result of the construction fiasco.

“It is critical that we move quickly to assist businesses impacted by the extended construction on Alum Rock,” San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo said in a statement.

Liccardo, along with fellow VTA trustees Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez and Gilroy Councilman Perry Woodward, worked with East Side Councilwoman Magdalena Carrasco to come up with recommendations.

Once completed, the BRT line will connect San Jose’s East Side, from Eastridge Mall, to downtown San Jose.

The project was expected to cost $114 million but will now total much more, especially when counting the compensation plan for local businesses. VTA spokeswoman Brandi Childress said the agency should have a revised cost estimate by its next board meeting.

Jennifer Wadsworth is the News Editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Newspaper. Email tips to [email protected] or follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.

6 Comments

  1. VTA is run by incompetent political appointees. They are fully responsible for this mess. VTA admits the project has been “mismanaged from the beginning”. Well, if so, I have a question for them:

    WHERE IS THE OVERSIGHT??

    They act like this problem came out of left field. As stewards for the public, they certainly blew it big time. It’s clear that NO ONE has been scrutinizing the contractors, or their progress — which has now ground to a halt.

    Now the VTA big shots are handing out taxpayer loot to try and avoid culpability.

    The whole lot of them should be fired, and public transportation contracts given to the lowest bidder like it used to be. All VTA is doing is trying to justify its existence at our expense.

  2. When is VTA going to consider reimbursing taxpayers for the Nation’s Worst-Performing Light Rail System and the daily subsidies Sta Clara Taxpayers provide for a system any sane businessperson would’ve shut down years ago? I like the idea of VTA paying reparations, but expand it, please! {These are personal opinions have nothing to do with any organization I may belong to.}

    • VTA does not have any money that it has not taken from working people. They should restore this to order and close the doors on the VTA, not the shops.

  3. VTA also plans to continue this fiasco from downtown SJ up El Camino all the way to Palo Alto. Even though it would parallel Light Rail, Caltrain, or both. And San Francisco is eager to commit the same crlme to Geary. To add insult to injury, businesses that will lose business thanks to construction will be required to help pay for the BRT line.

    The only place in California where Bus Rapid Transit works is in the San Fernando Valley, where the bus line follows an abandoned railroad right of way. It takes no lanes away from vehicles. And building it disrupted no businesses.

  4. On Geary in SF, the buses already carry more people than a lane of car traffic. Can’t say the same for the El Camino BRT plan.