Stimulus… More Like Stymied

Three articles in Friday’s editions of the Los Angeles Times and the Los Angeles Daily News focused on the the Subway to the Sea and its federal funding status (status: unknown). Now we support the Subway to the Sea as much as your average West LA folk, so there’s no issue with the project itself. Mass transit options, whatever and wherever they are, are good. The whole county is in dire need of a legitimate public transit alternative to the congested freeways as well as freedom from the polluted air that comes with traffic snarls.

In one Los Angeles Times report, it was revealed that much of the federal stimulus money that California had received for transportation was going to “routine” projects – not toward projects that President Obama had hoped “would both be built quickly and achieve long-term goals such as reducing pollution and congestion.” Now if you’re a Foothill Extension supporter, you can’t help but read this and scream: Oh come on! The explanation for perhaps why the ready-to-go Foothill Extension was stymied and not put up for federal stimulus money can be found in this excerpt:

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority thought about applying for stimulus funds to stretch the Red Line light rail to the sea but scrapped the idea when officials realized the project couldn’t be completed in the timeline the president outlined, said David Yale, MTA’s deputy executive officer of regional programming.
“The president’s charge was to get the economy jolted, so we needed to identify projects that could move quickly and get out to bid quickly,” Yale said.

Source: Stimulus funds in California mostly go to routine projects, study says, Los Angeles Times

The Foothill Extension seems to fit that “charge,” seeing as how with the help of federal funding, the entire line to Montclair can be finished and operating by 2017. Not to mention the thousands of construction jobs that would come with it, the billions of dollars that would jolt the San Gabriel Valley economies, the reduction in congestion on the 210, and the improvements in air quality for millions of residents.

However, all is not lost, as a group of the Subway’s biggest supporters –including Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky – are urging “local governments to put aside their differences over planned transportation projects and launch a coordinated effort to secure enough federal stimulus dollars and matching funds to expedite the subway extension as well as other much-anticipated projects to be financed by Measure R, the county’s new transportation sales tax.” The list of projects they want to come along with the ride to the federal government?

Those include the Expo Line light-rail route from downtown to Santa Monica with a completion date in 2015, the Gold Line’s Foothill extension to perhaps Azusa by 2017 and a downtown light-rail line to connect the Blue, Gold and Expo lines by 2025.

Source: L.A. mayor wants to speed up work on Subway to the Sea, Los Angeles Times

Though we’re currently emphasizing the use of federal funds to build out these projects, remember that the revenue from Measure R’s half-cent sales tax increase is still slated to pay for the majority, but not all, of the cost of these lines. And with the Subway to the Sea doing its best roommate-who-raids-your-part-of-the-fridge-without-paying-their-fair-share impression, Supervisor Michael Antonovich’s office seems to be having none of it:

Tony Bell, spokesman for county Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich, said the subway extension will only serve three of the county’s 88 cities, all of which will be required to “foot the bill.”

“The residents of the San Fernando, San Gabriel, Santa Clarita and Antelope valleys will all be paying for a gold-plated, multi-billion dollar underground subway that will have no impact on our regional transportation crisis,” Bell said. “In fact, it will funnel money away from projects that will improve mobility on a regional basis.”

Source: Subway to sea gains footing, Los Angeles Daily News

We’re encouraging our readers to send their thoughts to the newspapers in 150 words or less by emailing letters@latimes.com and dnforum@dailynews.com. Do it! And please send us a copy at info@iwillride.org when you do.

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