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The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has granted approval to the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) to enter the project development phase of the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) Silicon Valley Phase II extension in California.The FTA's approval marks a milestone in the project because it signifies VTA has "pre-award authority" under the federal New Starts funding program to incur the the cost of engineering and design activities that will be part of the environmental review process, VTA officials said in a press release.Phase II of VTA's BART Silicon Valley project entails construction of a 5-mile tunnel through downtown San Jose, Calif., to complete the 16-mile extension."This wonderful news from FTA means that we are continuing to make steady progress towards extending BART Silicon Valley through San Jose and Santa Clara," said VTA Board Chairwoman Cindy Chavez. "This opens the door to BART’s moving up the line for federal funding, as we continue through this pivotal year for advancements in transportation in the valley."Project development activities are necessary to refine the project's cost estimate and financial plan, VTA officials said. During the development phase, the transit agency must define the project's scope after performing an alternatives analysis, identifying a funding plan and completing the environmental review process.Next month will mark four years of work on VTA's BART Silicon Valley Berryessa Extension (Phase I). More than 80 percent of the construction contract to build the line, track, stations and systems is completed, VTA officials said. BART is expected to begin train testing on the 10-mile segment in spring 2017.