Of all the infrastructure projects participating in the transit administration's annual New Starts Report, San Francisco's subway project received a "medium high" rating that puts it among the highest-rated projects.
In addition to its high marks, the Central Subway project could receive big money from the U.S. Department of Transportation. In the fiscal year 2012 proposed budget released this week, President Obama called for an allocation of $200 million for the project.
This is the second consecutive year that the project has been given a specific funding recommendation in the president's budget.
"We are extremely pleased to see continued support from the highest levels of the federal government for this crucial transportation infrastructure project in San Francisco," Lee said in a statement.
The subway would provide a link between Chinatown and the Caltrain station at Fourth and King streets.
Board of Supervisors President David Chiu, whose district includes Chinatown, said that the strong federal backing indicates the project is moving "closer to becoming a reality."
The Central Subway, also known as phase two of the SFMTA's Third Street light rail project, would connect "people from the farthest communities in the city to downtown and Chinatown," Chiu said.
The project, which would serve one of the most densely populated and transit-dependent communities in the country, received environmental clearance from the Federal Transit Administration in November 2008.
Design plans are complete for the largest construction contract in the project, the Guideway Tunnel, and that contract is expected to go to bid by the end of February.
Plans for the subway's three stations at the Moscone Center, Union Square and Chinatown are under way. Those contracts are expected to be advertised for bid later this year and early next year.