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.