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Transit projects gaining steam

Initiative aims to help pay for expansions in 10 years rather than 30 years.

April 24, 2010|By Zain Shauk

A new carpool lane on the Golden State (5) Freeway could be one of about $200-million worth of local transportation projects that could be fast-tracked after the Metropolitan Transportation Authority on Thursday supported a plan to speed up a slate of developments in Los Angeles County.

The authority’s board of directors voted unanimously to support Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s 30/10 Initiative, which seeks federal assistance to accelerate 12 transit projects, including the so-called Subway to the Sea on the Westside and the Gold Line Foothill extension from Pasadena.

The plan would use a federal loan guarantee, subsidies, grants or another, undetermined funding mechanism to help the county pay for the construction of projects in 10 years instead of 30, the time it would have taken to cover the costs of the rail and other developments funded by the Measure R half-cent sales tax increase passed by county voters in 2008.

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But included in the board’s vote of support Thursday was a motion to accelerate funding for other projects funded by Measure R, said Glendale Mayor and MTA Board Chairman Ara Najarian.

The motion to include other Measure R projects in the 30/10 Initiative was key to gaining the support of county Supervisor Mike Antonovich, a member of the board, said Tony Bell, Antonovich’s spokesman.

Antonovich had previously criticized the plan for not accelerating any projects in the Glendale-Burbank region, but the board’s move Thursday will also push for federal assistance to speed up other developments, Bell said.

“It actually revised 30/10 to make it more equitable, to provide more of the transit fixes that we need for the entire region,” he said.

A unanimous vote of support for Villaraigosa’s initiative will be key in approaching federal officials for aid, Najarian said.

“Too often in the past when L.A. has come to Washington to seek funding, we haven’t been speaking with one voice,” he said.

“We’ve been split, and?.?.?.?they say, ‘Look, L.A., get your act together. Let us know when you all agree, because if we’re going to give you X million dollars, we want everyone to be happy about it.’”

Although the support of the full board gives the proposal added momentum for the initiative, no agency has ever approached the government with a similar request for backing the acceleration of a project, he said.

How the plan comes together and whether it gains support may be uncertain, he said.

What will be certain, however, is that the majority of projects will be developed in other parts of the county and will have more of an indirect benefit locally, Najarian said.

“It will make transportation and travel through the county that much easier,” he said.

“We’ll be able to get to the Westside by transit. We’ll be able to get to the San Fernando Valley, back east to the San Gabriel Valley, out the county line and maybe even to Ontario Airport.”


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