SAN JOSE (CBS SF) – Shovels went into the ground Thursday on a transit project that has been often derided as a pipe dream, the Bay Area Rapid Transit extension to San Jose.

Senator Dianne Feinstein credited voters for passing two tax measures to fund the project during the groundbreaking ceremony at 1404 Mabury Road near the Berryessa Flea Market.

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“The fact that Santa Clara was willing to ante up, go to the polls and pay,” Feinstein said is what led to the other federal funding.

San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed vowed the effort would not stop until the BART tracks ran all the way through his city into Santa Clara.

“We’re finally going to get to see the beginning of the movement of BART to San Jose. We’re not going to get all the way through. We still have more to do, but this segment is really important,” Reed said.

KCBS’ Mike Colgan Reports:

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The Silicon Valley Berryessa Extension Project is the initial phase of what is a planned 16-mile extension from Fremont.

Stations at Warm Springs, Milpitas and in the Berryessa area of north San Jose will serve 23,000 passengers a day when the first 10 miles of track open in 2016.

The second phase of the project entails a subway tunnel through downtown San Jose and an above ground trackway through Santa Clara that will take BART trains to the Caltrain station.

Backers of the project heralded the milestone day for a project that Valley Transportation Authority General Manger Michael Burns said faced deep skepticism during the two economic downturns of the last decade.

“We’ve been through a couple of economic cycles that have been problematic for us, but probably the vote in 2008,” Burns said, that funded daily operations and maintenance, “that really put us over the hump.”

In March, the Federal Transit Administration committed $900 million to the project, the last hurdle of a project talked about for more than 20 years that didn’t start to gain steam until voters passed Measure A in 2000.

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