rail rehab work
Rail Rehab Keeping Our System in Shape
Stacey Hendler Ross

VTA is once again performing significant maintenance projects along our light rail system. Through November, certain parts of the line will be closed for construction for short periods, mostly on weekends as it impacts the fewest riders.

To make sure passengers can still get where they need to go, light rail service will be replaced by buses, or a "bus bridge." A light rail car can hold 150 passengers, whereas a bus can carry only up to 60 passengers so we offer multiple buses for each light rail load depending on ridership.

You can check here for all notices that explain where and when service will be impacted.

The rest of this information is aimed to help our riders understand why, in some places, the light rail trains can move at a good clip, and in other locations speeds are noticeably reduced. We also want the public to know why we periodically need to shut down service for repairs and provide bus bridges to get you to your destinations.

State of Good Repair

The state of good repair is a priority for VTA as it is for rail systems throughout America. And as it is for those other rail systems, age is a challenging foe.

VTA maintains approximately 80 miles of trackway and 61 stations. The first set of tracks through downtown San Jose opened for service in 1987. The next 21-miles opened in 1991, with four more extensions opening between 1999 and 2005. Like any decades-old infrastructure, upkeep and maintenance are critical.

VTA refers to the light rail repair program as “Rail Rehab.” There are locations on our light rail network that are currently identified as still operable but in need of repair, called “slow zones”, where trains can still run safely below the normally designated speed. 

In an effort to rehabilitate our aging infrastructure, VTA schedules repairs to trouble spots on the light rail tracks that cause our service to run at a slower pace or where equipment has reached the end of its useful life. It’s the reason you may notice parts of the light rail line shut down for certain periods of time, with bus bridges providing temporary service during construction.
Aside from the trackway, the concrete at intersections and in-between the rails take a pounding over time which has a direct impact on the embedded rail in downtown San Jose and at intersections all along the alignment. Steel crossover connecting pieces, called "frogs" wear over time, and depending on the use and impact of light rail vehicles, these may require replacement.
The overhead wires don't last forever either. Depending on the speed and frequency of the trains, the natural sag of the wires, and the friction of the pantograph, some areas wear faster and may require replacement. Our light rail cables and rails are outdoors, exposed to the elements day in and day out. At VTA, we inspect the track and overhead wires regularly. If parts need to be replaced, it can sometimes take several months to secure them.

VTA is making great strides in assuring our system is safe, reliable and able to move at the intended speed. We thank you for your patience as we work to keep your public transportation in tip-top shape.


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