$6.5 million will go toward design work
Gilroy – The $4.7-billion BART to San Jose project got a $6.5-million boost this week from the federal government.
The earmark will go toward design work to keep the project on track while local planners angle for as much as $1 billion in federal funds from the Federal Transit Administration’s “New Starts” program.
“This latest appropriation bill was a real challenge. Many projects were competing for a smaller portion of New Starts money,” said Michael Burns, general manager of the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority. “It will enable us to move the preliminary engineering for the BART project forward and help us address the critical transportation needs of our county.”
The funding comes as the FTA decides whether the project deserves enough federal money to begin construction. Earlier this year, the FTA declined to recommend it for funding on grounds that it wasn’t cost-effective.
But recent legislation lowered that hurdle for the project and VTA planners have submitted new ridership figures to the FTA that outstrip previous projections. A decision from the FTA should come in the spring.
The VTA is also still debating whether to ask voters for a sales tax increase to fund BART and other transportation projects. That decision could come as early as next week, but has been complicated by budget disagreements among VTA board members and the possibility that Santa Clara County may also ask voters to support a new tax increase.
San Jose Mayor Ron Gonzales said that it’s important to tap all possible funding sources to keep the project alive.
“This step continues the essential long-term federal investment in the future of the economy and quality of life in our region,” he said. “This is great news for our residents, commuters and employers in San Jose, Silicon Valley and California.”