GOP tries to strip $175M in transportation projects from Democrats' coronavirus bill

Coronavirus bill advances in Senate without GOP support

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-WV, breaks down GOP opposition to the Democratic coronavirus stimulus plan on ‘America’s Newsroom.’

Senate Republicans are working to strip $175 million worth of transportation projects tucked inside President Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill, funding the GOP alleges is further proof Democrats have turned the pandemic bill into a bloated liberal wish list. 

Republicans on the Senate Banking Committee identified five major public transit projects in New York, California and elsewhere they say have no business in a bill aimed at addressing the ongoing pandemic and economic downturn.

Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., will offer an amendment on the Senate floor as early as Friday to remove the five projects from the legislation. 

“Democrats have loaded this ‘COVID-19 relief package’ with millions of dollars for unrelated, boondoggle, mainly blue state infrastructure projects,” Daines said in a statement to Fox News. “These projects have nothing to do with the pandemic and everything to do with Pelosi and Schumer helping their friends in blue states.” 

Here are the five projects Republican have identified for removal:

  • New York City East Side Access rail transit project: $70 million
  • Honolulu High-Capacity Transit Corridor light rail project: $70 million
  • San Francisco 3rd Street Light Rail Central Subway Project: $23.1 million
  • Santa Ana and Garden Grove electric-powered streetcar project in Orange County, California: $9.4 million
  • Dallas DART Red-Blue light rail platform extensions: $2.5 million

The East Side Access project is supposed to bring a new eight-track Long Island Rail Road terminal to Grand Central Terminal in Manhattan, but the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) project has been long-delayed, and cost estimates have ballooned.

Amanda Thompson, a spokesperson for the Republicans on the Senate Banking Committee, pointed out that even the New York Times in 2017 dubbed the East Side Access project “the most expensive mile of subway track on earth.”

Thompson also pointed to a 2019 Wall Street Journal article on the Honolulu transit project titled “How a Train Through Paradise Turned into a $9 billion Debacle.” The reporting found that the elevated train project has tallied one of the nation’s biggest transit cost overruns that even a federal grand jury was looking into it.

“Expanding Honolulu’s ‘train through paradise’ or what the New York Times has dubbed ‘the most expensive mile of subway track on earth’ has absolutely nothing to do with COVID-19 relief,” Thompson told Fox News. “If Democrats want to abuse taxpayer dollars to fund projects behind schedule and over-budget, they ought to go through the regular appropriations process.”

This isn’t the first time bloated transit projects in the $1.9 trillion coronavirus bill have caused controversy.

Following press reports, Senate Democrats eliminated $1.5 million for the Seaway International Bridge between upstate New York and Canada.

And a provision that passed in the House version for roughly $140 million in funding to expand an underground rail project in Silicon Valley had to be stripped from the Senate legislation because the parliamentarian ruled it violated budgetary rules.

That Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) expansion from San Jose to Santa Clara was first reported by FOX Business.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill said previously Republicans have been misleading the public about the transit projects in the bill. He said coronavirus hit America’s transportation system and its employees hard and that’s why funds for public transit were included in the relief legislation.  

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Hammill hoped the removal of the BART Silicon Valley project and the Seaway International Bridge would soften the GOP opposition to the bill that has been popular with the American public.

“Now that the two projects that Republicans misled the public about in the House bill have been removed, it is unclear how Republicans will justify their opposition to the American Rescue Plan, which has strong bipartisan support among the public,” Hammill said.

Fox News’ Chad Pergram contributed to this report. 

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