THIS JUST IN FROM LA METRO: Los Angeles Mayor and Metro Board Chair Antonio Villaraigosa welcomed the inclusion of $50 million in President Obama’s proposed FY13 Budget for the Westside Subway Extension and $31 million for the Regional Connector Project, calling the actions a vote of confidence for two high-priority regionally significant transit projects that will bring improved mobility, jobs and economic development to the Los Angeles region. The proposed funding in the President’s Fiscal year 2013 budget – if approved by Congress later this year – can be combined with L.A. County’s voter-approved Measure R sales tax revenue and could jumpstart construction of both projects in 2013.
Funding for the subway would go toward extending the Metro Purple Line to Westwood, and the Regional Connector would link several rail lines in Downtown L.A. “President Obama’s proposed budget makes it more likely than ever that shovels could soon break ground on these transit improvements that will greatly expand connectivity throughout the L.A. region,” said Mayor Villaraigosa, who also serves as Metro Board Chair. “The President has come through for Los Angeles County. Now it’s Congress’ turn: the House and Senate should pass the New Starts transit funding in the President’s budget so we can put people back to work.”
The Mayor and other Metro Board members will be back at the White House and Congress this year to secure multi-year federal full-funding grant agreements for both the subway extension and Regional Connector. Before that can happen the Federal Transit Administration must work with Metro to complete final review of the environmental documents for the projects, a process that is underway.
The Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation, in its analysis of local, state and national economic impacts for Measure R, projected that the Westside Subway Extension and Regional Connector would create nearly 60,000 jobs and $10 billion in business revenues. Regionally, the Westside Subway Extension is projected to create 44,800 jobs and generate $2.81 billion in labor income. It would also generate $7.67 billion in business revenues. The Regional Connector is projected to create 13,770 jobs, $864 million in labor income, and $2.36 billion in business revenues. Additional jobs and economic benefits would be generated nationally.
The long-awaited $5.6 billion subway extension will provide a high-capacity, high-speed, dependable transit alternative for those traveling to and from the Westside — L.A.’s “second downtown.” More than 300,000 people travel into the Westside every day for work from areas throughout the county and beyond. The new funding proposed by the President would help Metro extend the Purple Line subway from Wilshire/Western. Metro is continuing to pursue the necessary funding to complete the project to Westwood and accelerate the pace of construction.
Once built, riders will be able to travel from Downtown Los Angeles to the Westwood/UCLA station in 25 minutes. More than 78,000 daily project trips are projected to use the seven new stations. The $1.367 billion Regional Connector is a 1.9-mile fully underground light rail line that will connect the Metro Gold Line to the Metro Blue Line and future Expo Line, enabling passengers to travel from Montclair to Long Beach and from East Los Angeles to Santa Monica as a “one seat ride.”
By providing continuous "through service" between these lines, the Regional Connector will improve access to both local and regional destinations and greatly improve the connectivity of the regional transportation network. The project will minimize the need for transfers, reducing one-way light rail trip times across the county by 10 to 20 minutes or more. The project includes three new downtown stations and would provide access to 88,200 passengers, including approximately 17,700 new transit riders.
The Westside Subway Extension as well as Regional Connector projects are both partially funded by Measure R and can be used to leverage federal “New Starts” matching funds. Metro’s Long Range Transportation Plan for Los Angeles County commits $4.2 billion (in 2009 dollars) over the next 30 years to building the subway extension project. It commits $160 million for the Regional Connector Project.
Metro continues to seek creative financing solutions that could potentially accelerate public transit projects in as little as 10 years through the 30/10 Initiative and America Fast Forward Program. This effort proposes using the Measure R revenue stream as collateral for long-term bonds and federal loans, which will allow Metro to build 12 key mass transit projects in 10 years rather than 30.
The Westside Subway project is now making its way through the final stages of state and federal environmental review, and is soon expected to be made available for public review before going to the Metro Board for approval. The Regional Connector’s final environmental document has already been made available for public review, and is scheduled to go before the Metro Board February 23. If approved and federal funding secured, both projects could begin construction next year.