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Rep. Eric Swalwell (CA-15) announced Monday this week that the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee has included $20 million that he requested for the Valley Link project in its Fiscal Year 2021 transportation spending bill.

Valley Link consists of a 42-mile, seven-station passenger rail project that will connect the existing Dublin/Pleasanton BART Station in Alameda County to the approved Altamont Corridor Express (ACE) North Lathrop Station in San Joaquin County.

“The Valley Link project will fundamentally change the way we travel in the East Bay by reducing traffic congestion — particularly on Interstate 580 — and connecting our communities,” said Swalwell. “Connecting BART to ACE has been among my top priorities since I came to Congress eight years ago, and I am pleased to finally see it included among our national transportation priorities. I’m looking forward to the spending bill’s swift passage so we can deliver on this transformative project.” 

The $20 million specified in the Surface Transportation Reauthorization Act of 2021 would help implement Valley Link’s sustainability plan by identifying and integrating cost-effective ways to maximize the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions into the system’s planning, design and operation. 

Introduced to the Senate in May this year by a bipartisan group of senators, the Surface Transportation Reauthorization Act of 2021 is a bill that would establish $303.5 billion in new baseline funding for the Department of Transportation’s programs for highways, roads and bridges. The bill has not yet progressed beyond its May 27 introduction. The Surface Transportation Reauthorization Act of 2021 bill is part of the annual process. Swalwell confirmed that it is a stand-alone bill. It is separate from President Joe Biden’s $2 trillion jobs and infrastructure bill, which fell apart Tuesday this week.

“These funds will help us to transform Valley Link into a national model of environmental sustainability and support service expansion to equitably serve some of the state’s most disadvantaged communities,” said Tracy Mayor Pro Tem Veronica Vargas, chair of the Tri-Valley – San Joaquin Valley Regional Rail Authority Board.

Valley Link’s most recently reported funding increase came in October last year, when the Alameda County Transportation Commission (ACTA) approved a reallocation to the rail project in the amount of $400 million. The funding came from Measure BB funds that had previously been allocated for a BART extension to Livermore, which was never built.

With that October 2020 action by the ACTC, Valley Link at the time had identified $708 million in funding. This represented almost 30% of the estimated project cost, reported Valley Link Executive Director Michael Tree. 

Dublin Mayor Melissa Hernandez, Valley Link Board vice chair, said Valley Link is essential to post-pandemic economic recovery. 

“The project will provide access to jobs and job training sites but will also create up to 22,000 jobs during construction with an economic impact of $3.5 billion,” Hernandez continued. “The $20 million request advanced by Congressman Swalwell would represent the first allocation of federal funds to the Valley Link project and will bring us one step closer to bringing relief to nearly 100,000 Bay Area workers now commuting daily through this corridor.” 

Federal highway and public transportation programs are funded through multi-year surface transportation authorization acts. Under guidelines issued by the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, each representative was able to request funding for highway and transit projects in their community, although only a handful are included in this year’s bill. Projects are restricted to a limited number of federal funding streams and limited to surface transportation authorization legislation.

Upon completion, Valley Link is expected to provide 74 daily round trips and carry more than 33,000 daily riders by 2040. The project is expected to result in the reduction of approximately 141 million vehicle miles traveled per year by 2040, which will significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The first Valley Link trains could be placed into service in 2028.