Days after two Republican congressmen from California took potshots at it, a $141 million federal gift to BART has been dropped from the $1.9 trillion stimulus package.
As we reported earlier this week, Republicans latched on to the relatively tiny piece of the stimulus package, $141 million earmarked for BART's project to extend service into downtown San Jose. Rep. Devin Nunes, while speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference over the weekend, called it "a tunnel from Silicon Valley to San Francisco," and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy called it "$140 million for a tunnel near Pelosi's district."
Other Republicans referred to it as "Speaker Pelosi’s pork subway project," and as the Associated Press reports, as of Wednesday, it looks to be getting nixed from the stimulus package. The reason is not that these Republicans dislike it, but the Senate Parliamentarian ruled that the BART money is for a pilot project, and therefore isn't eligible for inclusion in the bill.
Also getting nixed from the bill is an even smaller sum: $1.5 million in funding to maintain and operate a bridge in upstate New York that connects Canada and the U.S. Because this is in Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer's state, this was also derided as "pork" by the Republicans.
"Now that the two projects that Republicans misled the public about in the House bill have been removed, it is unclear how Republicans will justify their opposition to the American Rescue Plan, which has strong bipartisan support among the public," says a spokesperson for Speaker Pelosi, Drew Hammill.
Besides these two bits of infrastructure funding and a $15 minimum-wage provision that the Senate Parliamentarian also suggested was ineligible for inclusion, the Senate bill is expected to largely mirror the House version.
Construction on the extension of BART tracks past North San Jose/Berryessa Station was expected to begin next year, and with BART in dire financial straits, it could end up delayed without federal funding. The money was intended to build six miles of track, including five miles that would be underground as the route extends to future stations called Downtown San Jose and Diridon. The overall project, which is Phase II of an extension project that dates back decades, is currently estimated to be complete in 2030.
Bernice Alaniz of the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority tells the AP that Nunes and McCarthy had really misrepresented the project at CPAC when they referred to it being a pet project of tech "oligarchs."
"It really is an essential transit alternative for a highly congested commute corridor and it serves two large universities — San Jose State and Santa Clara University,” she said. "So I know some of the criticisms are like, ‘oh, it’s for the high-tech oligarchs.’ But we serve transit dependent workers and we serve a large percentage of students going to these colleges."
Also, as SFist pointed out, calling it a "tunnel from Silicon Valley to San Francisco" is also misleading — we already have the Transbay Tube for that, and BART trains reached North San Jose last June, and if you want to get to most of Silicon Valley from SF you still have to take Caltrain.
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