Politics

House Covid Bill Includes Over $100 Million For Controversial Silicon Valley Underground Rail Project

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The House version of the coronavirus stimulus bill contains more than $100 million for an underground rail project in Silicon Valley for which planning has been going on for several years but hasn’t yet broken ground.

The funding for the project, phase two of the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) expansion, was tucked into the House Transportation Committee’s section of the bill under a funding provision for “all projects under section 3005(b) of Public Law 114-94 that received allocations for fiscal year 2019 and 2020” except “projects open for revenue service.”

But there is only one such project that fits that definition — the BART phase 2 extension, documents reviewed by Fox Business reveal.

Under the distribution formula of that section of the bill, documents reviewed by Fox Business indicate that the BART project would get approximately $112 million.

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The BART phase 2 extension would use one of the largest boring machines ever built to drill a tunnel for rail transit underneath San Jose, Calif., according to The Mercury News. The paper has reported that the project has seen its cost estimates increase repeatedly and has caused outrage among local Bay area officials over the disproportionate amount of local sales tax funds that are going to the project. There are also worries that the ambitious nature of the tunnel increases the risk of problems and the chances the project could go further over budget or see major delays.

It “sucks all the air out of the room for 10 years,” Saratoga Mayor Howard Miller said of the project’s effect on tax funds meant to maintain roads, and ease traffic, according to The Mercury News.

The project was estimated to cost $4.69 billion in 2018. But estimates have already skyrocketed to $6.9 billion. It’s currently scheduled to be complete in approximately 2030.

“An earmark to help cover the cost of Big Tech’s subway construction costs has nothing to do with combatting COVID-19,” Steve Kelly, a spokesperson for the Senate Banking Committee Republicans, said of the money for the BART project. The Senate Banking Committee has jurisdiction over mass transit projects in the Senate.

He added: “It doesn’t help one person get the vaccine or boost testing capabilities. This is just further proof that congressional Democrats view the reconciliation process as a means to push through their wish list – which includes forcing taxpayers to pay even more for an over budget and delayed construction project in one of the wealthiest regions in the country.”

The long-planned extension of BART has gained praise from powerful California Democrat lawmakers, including Rep. Zoe Lofgren.

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