WASHINGTON — The House voted Wednesday to begin construction on a $5-billion super collider particle accelerator that rivals a city freeway system in size.
On a 330-93 vote, the House rejected an amendment by three Northern members that would have struck $110 million from an appropriations bill to fund initial work on the 53-mile-long tunnel 25 miles south of Dallas.
The amendment to delay construction of the collider was offered to an $18.5-billion energy and water appropriations bill for fiscal 1990 that also includes $636 million--quadruple this year's spending--for environmental cleanups at the nation's nuclear weapons plants.
The bill also finances the beginning of construction on 40 new water projects, 37 by the Army Corps of Engineers and three by the Interior Department's Bureau of Reclamation, but limits total water project spending to $4.15 billion, slightly less than what is being spent this year.
The particle accelerator machine is called the superconducting super collider or SSC because its electromagnets will be cooled to near absolute zero temperature, where energy-wasting resistance to electrical current vanishes.
"The SSC is a critical part of this Administration's initiative to strengthen the position of the nation as a world leader in science and technology," the White House said in a policy statement.
"It will produce discoveries, innovations and spinoffs that could touch profoundly on every American."
President Bush had sought $250 million in initial construction and other money for the project, which the Energy Department decided before last year's presidential election to build in Texas following an intense competition for it by more than half of the nation's 50 states, including California.
Earlier this month, the President pleaded with key House members to protect the project from cuts in science, energy and water programs being made as part of a deficit-reduction agreement.
Nonetheless, the House Appropriations Committee's energy and water development subcommittee trimmed Bush's super collider request to $200 million, including $110 million for beginning construction.
"We feel this will be adequate to get the project under way," Rep. Tom Bevill (D-Ala.), the subcommittee's chairman, said Wednesday. "As time goes on, this would become more expensive."