Funding for BART’s South Bay extension pulled from COVID-19 relief bill

Bay Area

(BCN) – A provision in the coronavirus stimulus bill currently being considered by Congress that would have allocated nearly $150 million toward BART’s South Bay extension has been removed after the Senate parliamentarian ruled it is not eligible for inclusion.

The stimulus bill the House passed last week included nearly $1.5 billion in funding for ongoing transit projects, part of a $30 billion allocation for beleaguered public transit agencies. 

However, the $141 million in funding for the extension has been withdrawn from the version of the bill being considered in the Senate to comply with the complex rules governing budget reconciliation, a process that will allow the Senate to approve the bill by a simple majority rather than the standard 60-vote threshold. 

A spokesperson for the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, which is designing and constructing the extension, was not immediately available for comment. 

Republicans had been critical of the funding, dubbing it “Nancy Pelosi’s subway” despite the extension sitting some 50 miles south of her San Francisco-based district and arguing it represented wasteful spending in the $1.9 trillion pandemic relief bill. 

San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, who has endorsed BART’s South Bay extension for roughly two decades, called the decision disappointing but thanked the Bay Area’s congressional delegation for its efforts.

“I look forward to working with our Congressional leaders to find the funding that will enable us to transform nearly 100,000 auto drivers into BART transit riders,” Liccardo said in a statement. 

Last June, BART executives and South Bay officials, including Liccardo, christened the first phase of the South Bay extension with the opening of BART stations in northern San Jose’s Berryessa neighborhood and Milpitas. 

The second phase, totaling about 6 miles, is expected to include the construction of subterranean stations at 28th Street in San Jose’s Little Portugal, in downtown San Jose near the intersection of Santa Clara and Market streets, the San Jose Diridon rail depot, and a ground-level station just north of Avaya Stadium in Santa Clara.

The $6.9 billion second phase is expected to break ground next year, with an estimated completion date around 2030.

Here is Mayor Sam Liccardo’s full statement:

“While disappointing, I want to thank our Congressional delegation for their championing of the BART Phase 2 project, which will finally connect the downtown of America’s 10th largest city, San José, to our region’s other two major cities, Oakland and San Francisco, with a “ring of rail” around the Bay Area. 

This transformative project will become America’s first to utilize the innovative Expedited Project Delivery Program championed by Republican and Democratic administrations — leveraging state, regional and local funding sources to pay for 75% of the project’s cost — a uniquely cost-effective federal investment.  I look forward to working with our Congressional leaders to find the funding that will enable us to transform nearly 100,000 auto drivers into BART transit riders.”

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