Republicans criticize BART funding in COVID-19 relief bill

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- Money allocated for BART in the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill, which was passed by the House of Representatives, has become a central point of contention.

At the Conservative Political Action Conference over the weekend, Rep. Devin Nunes from the Central Valley panned the idea of the entire project.

"We already know that part of this money is going to go to build a tunnel from Silicon Valley to San Francisco," said Nunes. "These tech oligarchs are the last people that need anybody's money, and they sure as hell don't need a tunnel from Silicon Valley to San Francisco."

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House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield didn't object to spending the funds, but he argued they should be spent elsewhere.

"The Socialists have brought the swamp back. $140 million for a tunnel near Pelosi's district, and when Republicans tried to redirect that money to provide mental health services for kids, every single Democrat voted against the kids," tweeted McCarthy.

The project in question is known as Phase II of the BART Silicon Valley Extension Program. It will eventually connect the existing Berryessa station in Northeast San Jose to four new stations in downtown San Jose and Santa Clara.

"This regional extension of the system will link the three biggest cities in the Bay Area with a one seat ride," said Bernice Alaniz, a spokesperson with the Valley Transportation Authority, which is overseeing construction of the extension.

The plan includes six miles of track, about five miles of which will be underground.
"Devin Nunes doesn't even know the route of BART and what's underground or not," said Bevan Dufty, a member of the BART Board of Directors representing district 9.

Dufty said the $140 million is needed so that the project doesn't languish and become more expensive.

"The purpose of these funds is about accelerating projects," he said.

Alaniz said VTA had already requested a $1.7 billion grant from the federal government to help fund it. That is only about 25% of the total cost. She said local agencies are responsible for the rest through a mix of taxes and bonds.

"This money would alleviate some of the strain on local sales tax revenues that have been impacted by COVID-19," she said.

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