TAEA Members Help Design and Build Mega BART Project for South Bay

TAEA’s Raj Sehdev, middle, stands in front of the Milpitas station during construction.

 

 

The expansion of BART into Santa Clara County will be a game changer for people fed up with traffic congestion or those who want to ditch their vehicles to decrease their carbon footprint.

At the helm of this transit transformation is Professional Architect and Local 21 Member Raj Sehdev.  President of Local 21’s Transportation Authority Engineers and Architects, Raj is among of a group of our TAEA Members that has contributed to the BART project. 

Until recently, the Fremont station had been BART’s southernmost stop for more than 40 years.  The extension projects are bringing BART into the new millennium.  A few items set these stations apart from others, Raj said.  One is the modern design of the facilities. 

“In the past, BART designers were content with basic station designs that were more functional than anything else,” said Raj, an 18-year employee at the Valley Transportation Authority.  “With these stations, we tried to stress that you can design mass transit stations that integrate function and aesthetics into built environment.”

Other TAEA Members who have also had a hand in the project are Bert Araki, Jagdish Dadhania, Marc DeLong, Robert Dona, Rachel Martinez, Dan Pornel and Wes Toy. 

Phase I of BART’s extension into Santa Clara County brings the trains 10 miles south to Warm Springs in South Fremont to Milpitas and the Berryessa area in north San Jose.  Phase II construction is set to begin this year, and includes a station in the Alum Rock neighborhood in east San Jose and an underground portion throughdowntown San Jose to Diridon Station, which some envision will be the
Grand Central Station of the West. 

Raj has worked with contractors on BART, but has been the only project architect for several years managing design and construction.

As VTA’s architect on the project, Raj manages the BART stations and parking structures, and resolves design challenges.  He also coordinates avenues for pedestrians, bicyclists, cars, VTA buses, tech shuttle buses, VTA light rail, and transportation networks like Lyft.  The station will be accessible for people with physical challenges.

While growing up, Raj was influenced by his father, who was a civil engineer, building scientist and professor.

“As an architect, we create an environment which can be used by people to either live in or move around in.  We affect their lives in ways you don’t think about,” Raj said. “We want to provide a safe and clean station.  We want people to enjoy their experience, use the station more, feel more comfortable moving around.”

That comfort includes natural lighting, clear signage directing people to their destinations, safety features and artwork.  The Milpitas station features large colored glass illustrating the diversity in the Silicon Valley and platform columns wrapped in ceramic tile depicting high tech circuit boards.

Ownership of the extension is also atypical for BART in that VTA will build and retain ownership of the South Bay stations, infrastructure, and added vehicles, said TAEA Member Marc DeLong.  Through agreements, VTA will be paying BART to operate and maintain the facilities. 

Raj and Marc have worked on the project since the extension began in 2004.  The work is professionally and personally rewarding, but also stressful.

Marc, an Assistant Transportation Engineer, originally assisted with the designs of maintenance yards and shops, then the environmental clearance process, as well as managing day-to-day oversight of construction.  As with any large-scale project, there are many cooks in the kitchen.

“I was interfacing with numerous stakeholders: utility companies, partner agencies, municipalities, adjacent business and property owners, even VTA operations and maintenance,” Marc said.  “It was quite a challenge to keep the project moving on the right track with so many competing interests and considerations.”

Though highly stressful and politically charged, the project’s been worth it.

“It’s been wonderful.  It’s not an opportunity a lot of people will get,” Raj said.