According to the text of the draft document and a review by Fox Business, the recently released COVID-19 relief bill includes more than $100 million for an underground rail project in California, with opponents calling the allocation part of a Democratic “wish list” that has little to do with pandemic recovery.
On Friday, Democrats released the full text of the 591-page bill (pdf), entitled the “American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.” The portion of the bill of the House Transportation Committee (sec. 7006) includes a funding clause that allocates some $30 billion for transit networks to “prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus,” with some of the money allocated for operating expenses and some for capital invasion.
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The bill calls for $1 billion in capital investment for “all projects under section 3005(b) of Public Law 114-94 that received allocations for fiscal year 2019 and 2020.” Section 3005(b) of Public Law 114-94, or the Surface Transportation Act of Fixing America (pdf), approved a pilot program to allow federal funds to be fast-tracked by transit agencies.
The pilot, referred to as the Expedited Project Delivery (EPD) Pilot Program, has been used in Silicon Valley project funding applications for the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART).
The relief bill will provide BART with about $112 million in support, according to a Fox Business analysis of the allocation formula featured in the COVID-19 bill and other related documents.
The allocation of funding will go into BART’s final $6.86 billion phase, which would expand operations 6.5 miles from downtown San José to Santa Clara, adding four new stations.
Via the expedited funding scheme, California’s Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) has sought a total of $1.715 billion in federal funds for BART.
According to Railway Age, the approximately $112 million in BART funding included in the COVID-19 bill will make it the third installment of federal funding allocated to the Silicon Valley train under the pilot program Section 3005(b), with $125 million approved in August 2019, and another $100 million in January 2021.
The inclusion of BART funding in the COVID-19 bill was criticized by Steve Kelly, spokesman for the Senate Banking Committee Republicans.
He told Fox Business, “A commitment to help cover the cost of Big Tech’s subway construction costs has nothing to do with combating COVID-19.”
It doesn’t help one person get the vaccine or improve the ability to evaluate,” he said.” “This is just further evidence that the reconciliation process is seen by Congressional Democrats as a means of pushing through their wish list, which involves forcing taxpayers to pay even more for an over-budget and delayed construction project in one of the country’s richest regions.”
Phase 2 construction of the Silicon Valley train is scheduled to begin in 2022, with significant work to be completed by 2028, followed by two more years of pre-launch testing, integration, and certification.
The BART project’s first phase cost some $2.3 billion and lasted from 2012 until mid-2020.
In the meantime, House Republican leadership proposes a “no” vote on the House COVID-19 relief bill, House Republican Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) told his caucus on Friday in an email.
“Scalise wrote in an email obtained by The Hill, which dubbed the draft bill “Pelosi’s Payoff to Progressives Act.” “Leadership recommends a NO vote.
In the email, Scalise’s team said, “It is clear that Democrats have no interest in timely and targeted approaching COVID relief and are using the reconciliation process to jam through their liberal wish list agenda instead.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) panned the efforts of Scalise to scupper the bill, accusing him of not thinking for Americans struggling during the pandemic, and Republicans.
“With millions of Americans unemployed and demanding relief to reopen schools and get people back to work, the Republican leadership of the House is demanding that its members vote against a bipartisan plan to help Americans struggling,” Pelosi wrote in a statement.
“The Americans need assistance. House Republicans don’t care, Pelosi alleged, claiming that 73 percent of Americans support the American Rescue Initiative.