csub.jpgLess than a week after a civil grand jury called on the SFMTA to overhaul its Central Subway project because of what it described as an inefficient design and costs that will negatively affect current transit service, $57.2 million in local sales tax money could be allocated to the controversial project.

The $1.57 billion Central Subway project has so far received nearly $96 million in federal funding, including $20 million from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration allocated last month.

Last month, the SFMTA board also approved a $233.6 million contract that will pay for the development of about 8,240 feet of concrete tunnels and two tunnel-boring machines, according to Muni officials.

At the time, reported the Ex, critics like Save Muni‘s Jerry Cauthen expressed concerns that since the MTA is counting their chickens before they’ve hatched.

Cauthen notes that the MTA’s yet to get their hands on the $869 million in federal funding the Federal Transit Administration has preliminarily agreed to give them, pending a hearing to approve the disbursement at the end of 2011.

Cauthen told the Ex “This is a huge risk for the agency to take, since there is no assurance that they’re going to get reimbursed for this,” said Cauthen.

The Central Subway project, which will create a new branch of the San Francisco Munipal Railway’s T-Third line, is designed to run north along Fourth Street from Brannan Street before going underground at Interstate Highway 80, with subway stops at Moscone Center, Union Square and Chinatown. It is expected to be operational by 2019.

Last week a grand jury blasted the project, calling it “breathtakingly expensive,” and noting that at nearly $1.6 billion, it would cost $176,000 per foot of construction.

MTA spokesperson Paul Rose appeared somewhat dismissive of the grand jury’s findings, saying that “We appreciate the Civil Grand Jury’s interest in the Central Subway project” and said while the report “is comprehensive, it does not say anything new about the challenges we face in regards to serving nearly 700,000 riders each weekday.”

Worries over $869 million make today’s figure of $57 million of local sales taxes seem like chump change, don’t they? But that’s what the San Francisco County Transportation Authority is mulling over giving the MTA to pay for, says the Ex, “two tunnel boring machines and storage facilities for the massive vehicles.”

The authority is governed by SF’s Board of Supes, but is “a separate legal entity from the City and County of San Francisco, created under state law.”

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the author

Eve Batey is the editor and publisher of the San Francisco Appeal. She used to be the San Francisco Chronicle's Deputy Managing Editor for Online, and started at the Chronicle as their blogging and interactive editor. Before that, she was a co-founding writer and the lead editor of SFist. She's been in the city since 1997, presently living in the Outer Sunset with her husband, cat, and dog. You can reach Eve at eve@sfappeal.com.

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