Congress OKs Transportation Bill Expected to Speed Up L.A. Projects

Congress approves more than $100 billion for the two-year spending plan could expedite several major transportation projects in the Los Angeles area.

Update: Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa held a press conference with Sen. Barbara Boxer praising the passing of this bill. To read Patch's latest story on this bill, .

Congress on Friday approved a two-year, $100 billion transportation bill that would help to expedite several major road and rail projects in the Los Angeles area.

The bill, which now goes to President Obama to be signed into law, includes funding for the program known as America Fast Forward, which would speed up the Westside Subway Extension—the expansion of the Purple Line from downtown to Beverly Hills, Century City, Westwood and the Veterans Administration campus.

The bill also increases funding for the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) program from $122 million per year to $750 million in 2013, and to $1 billion in 2014. TIFIA gives cities loans for transportation projects with low interest rates and flexible terms.

In conjunction with the extension of , the half-cent sales tax that will be on the ballot in November, the TIFIA program would help to expedite 12 transportation projects in the Los Angeles area over the next decade, Metro stated on its blog, The Source:

...A Measure R extension plus an expanded federal loan program known as TIFIA would make it possible to build the 12 Measure R transit projects in the next decade or so — instead of waiting until 2039. TIFIA loans could also add $3.7 billion in funding to the Measure R highway program, which is needed because many of the projects are only partially funded by Measure R.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who traveled to Washington several times to lobby for the transportation bill, issued a statement applauding its passage:

"After one extension after another, Congress finally came together and broke through the gridlock to pass the surface transportation bill. Importantly for Los Angeles, the bill includes America Fast Forward, the innovative, nationwide funding program that grew out of 30/10, our plan to accelerate 30 years worth of transit projects in 10 years...
The passage of America Fast Forward will mean more jobs for Angelenos and will give a significant boost to our plan to accelerate transit projects here in Los Angeles and realize our vision of a 21st century transportation network."

The spending plan passed with rare bipartisan support. The U.S. House approved the compromise plan by a 373-52 vote. The Senate voted 74-19 in favor of the bill, which also extended the federal gasoline tax through September 2014.

Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority Director of Federal Relations Raffi Hamparian said the agency would "move with dispatch" to apply for up to $2 billion in loans to accelerate Metro transit and highway projects.

The bill also includes $3.8 billion in so-called New Starts competitive grants that could be applied to Metro projects.

City News Service contributed to this report.

centurycitysubway.org July 01, 2012 at 12:17 PM
@ Jack: You are flat out wrong. According to Metro's own documents, a station at SM (not under the high school) would be $60-100 million less to build and would be faster. Visit www.centurycitysubway.org for links to the relevant documents.
Greg Fry July 01, 2012 at 09:04 PM
Scott, your link is to a study done in 1915--a well done study for the time, but referencing conditions, technologies and economics practically a century old. A quote, noting congestion at the time bounded by Main, Hill, First and Sixth streets: "South of seventh street it is unusual for traffic procession to assume unwieldy proportions, and beyond ninth street all trace of congestion disappears." What relevance whatsoever does that study have to do with current conditions, technologies, and economics in 2012? Greater population density and usage of non-rail lines have their limits in serving more and more commuters. The Orange Line in the SF Valley, for example--served by a dedicated bus line--has almost reached capacity. In order to serve substantially more customers on this route, a rail option would become necessary: http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-orange-line-20120628,0,4263209.story Now--what of the even more densely populated and traffic-strangled Westside? When a certain density is reached relative to available people-moving options and high surface land prices, subterranean rail becomes the only only practical option.
Greg Fry July 01, 2012 at 09:29 PM
@ John B. Greet John, when you state that California can and should opt out of the "national transportation funding pool", what you are actually advocating is for Californians to selectively refuse to pay a certain portion of federally mandated taxes. Such strategy has been attempted by many--that is, those refusing to pay their income or other taxes due to its revenue supporting something of federal spending personally objectionable to the specific taxpayer. Never has this strategy worked. As long as we are a nation with a federal government given constitutional power by the states to tax and govern, we are stuck with such an arrangement minus a radical constitutional revision. The federal government will go on taxing and allocating funds per its authority, as constitutionally mandated. Such taxing and allocating of resources will continue. Those who "opt out" of such not only lose their share of funds from that pool, but put themselves in direct conflict with federal laws. California's only "out" is to insist on funding from the federal pool commensurate with its contributions, population and needs. Los Angeles's only "out" is to insist on funding form the state likewise commensurate with our contributions, population and needs. Local politicians--whether at the state or federal level--have failed us spectacularly in getting this fair and necessary funding for needed local infrastructure.
John B. Greet July 01, 2012 at 10:04 PM
Greg, my point is that, like so many areas of our lives into which it has intruded itself, the Fed *has* no constitutional mandate in the area of transportation. The only thing even closely addressing transportation in the constitution is the "post roads" establishment authority in Art. 1, Sect. 8. I think sufficient roads have now been established throughout the nation for the movement of the mail so anything else Congress has been involved in, in the area of transportation has been entirely outside of its authority as enumerated in the constitution. States are sovereign. States that do not wish to have their transportation-related funding laundered through D.C. should decline to allow that to happen. Again, let D.C. sue Sacramento and see if it can prevail in court in this area. If the court is, itself, constitutionally compliant, I think D.C. would lose.
Greg Fry July 02, 2012 at 01:49 AM
@ John B. Greet Please respond to my post above--thanks!
John B. Greet July 02, 2012 at 01:54 AM
Greg, I believe I have responded to each comment you have directed my way. : )
Greg Fry July 02, 2012 at 02:19 AM
@ John B. Greet Again, I see no basis for your conclusion. Would things be different if California were an independent entity? Of course--but it is not. I won't voice an opinion--too many complex issues that should be left up to the voters of all states to decide, that is, whatever powers the federal government should or should not be mandated to exercise. That said, I notice you have yet to respond to my question of how "local" you would take things regarding funding and cooperative application of resources? When my own street was paved--several years ago--complex equipment was used for the job. Complex equipment requires cooperative investment. Cooperative investment reduces overall costs based on investment in equipment that makes its use cheaper for all in the long run. So again: given your opposition to funding far away projects, wouldn't your logic also apply to local projects which apparently only benefit those in a very limited area? Would it be cheaper for the dozen or so houses on my street to attempt to regrade and pave it, or to rely on an entity that has the $$ to invest in initial equipment to do so that ultimately makes it cheaper for all?
John B. Greet July 02, 2012 at 03:36 AM
Greg: The basis for my conclusion is the document that is intended to constrain the power, authority, and activities of the Fed. This is not a complex question at all. Whenever someone seeks to have the Fed do a thing, we must consult the constitution. If the thing is not specifically enumerated there, the Fed should not do it. If enough folks want the Fed to be able to do that thing, then they must do the political heavy-lifting necessary to amend the constitution so as to authorize it. As to your question concerning localities: Incorporated cities should fund, build, repair, and maintain their own public infrastructure. If they do not want to have to do this, then they should dis-incorporate and cede that responsibility to the county. Counties should fund, build, repair, and maintain the infrastructure that is theirs. States should do the same. The Fed should do the same but only for systems and properties that the constitution specifically authorizes it to fund, build, repair, and maintain.
Richard F. July 02, 2012 at 05:01 PM
All this "do it my way" bickering is why people hate politicians and why nothing ever gets done. The bottom line is we need better public transportation. If you are so bloody smart figure out a way to make it happen instead of wasting time making "the other side" wrong.
Skraeling July 02, 2012 at 06:16 PM
This is a perfect time to begin rebuilding America, and California, in particular, should move forward with as many major projects as possible. Yes, we face debt, but on the other hand, we can refinance that debt and even create more for the improvement of our state and nation by taking advantage of record low borrowing rates, as interest rates will rise, especially if the GOP takes over, yet again, and inflation is sure to heat up when resources begin to dwindle. that was FDR's thoughts, and we became a nation of doers...it was Lincoln's thought as well and we became a nation connected by rail in spite of the costs of Civil War....Look at what we have become now......partrisan zealotry without thought...talkradio and tv...divide and conquer but who wins?
Ira kaplam July 03, 2012 at 09:32 PM
the westside subway is not a dream and will serve all it now will be built with todays $ beamer 184
Joe Parker July 03, 2012 at 11:45 PM
Here is a traffic solution we can do now and not wait twenty years for tunnels to get bored. Follow Singapore's example and tax cars using the streets. A tag on the windshield tells us if we've paid our monthly (or weekly tax), and cameras strategically placed throughout the city will record license plates and tags so violators are ticketed. In itself, this will reduce traffic, but also provide finances to update our roads, create dedicated bus lanes (and bicycle lanes), make some streets one-way, and expand our bus system that will service those people who cannot afford, or choose not to pay, the automobile tax.
Greg Fry July 04, 2012 at 02:54 AM
Instead of taking further punitive actions against the already overburdened and overtaxed middle class, how about instituting tax reform that eliminates the billions of $$ we waste in corporate welfare, the subsidizing of sending our jobs overseas, and actually tax those who benefit most from a workforce which can (hopefully) show up on time for the remaining jobs that we have in this country?
Greg Fry July 04, 2012 at 03:00 AM
@ Richard F. We're engaged in democracy, Richard. That is to say, actually discussing and debating issues that affect us all in seeking the best possible solution to such. Precious little of that has gone on in the Los Angeles area for decades. What is your solution--to once again trust politicians--with all the special interest pressures on them and their votes--to make these choices minus our input?
Joe Parker July 04, 2012 at 03:46 AM
So how does not sending jobs overseas solve our traffic problem? (not that I'm for that) I was suggesting a way that might help people, rich and poor, show up to work on time and, as you say, go from point A to point B. Greg, you're awfully busy being critical.
Greg Fry July 04, 2012 at 05:13 AM
Yes I am, Joe--and being critical and speaking one's mind is hopefully a way for all of us to present honest facts as we see them and arrive at some sort of understanding as to the best way to proceed! Democracy is messy business--but it's still the best system and best way to ultimately solve things! As to how "not sending jobs overseas" helps solve our traffic problems--more jobs here means more wealth for Americans, and more tax resources to deal with our problems from traffic to any other issue you can think of. There was a time when--rather than the draconian suggestions to punish commuters--we as a locality, state and nation chose to invest heavily in infrastructure as a way of keeping up with demands on our roads, schools, sewers, etc. Jack--as quoted above--has a point that the time now is more than ripe to make such investments again.
Joe Parker July 04, 2012 at 05:57 AM
"Make such investments" with what money, sir? Perhaps you're too busy being critical to know that our local, state, and national governments are broke. Oh, I forgot. We can tax the people with a "forever tax" and in exchange we get to bore holes in the ground that most likely will NOT solve our traffic problems.
Greg Fry July 04, 2012 at 05:09 PM
If we still have the money to run two useless wars and give away hundreds of billions of $$ in tax subsidies to big oil and other corporations, then what we really need to do is get our economic priorities in order and re-allocate funding where it is really needed.
Joe Parker July 05, 2012 at 01:55 AM
Mr. Fry, the government does not have money to run wars. The government is broke. The money L.A. County might get to put in some subways would be a loan, financed by a sales tax that the people of Los Angeles need to vote on, a sales tax that will continue, I've heard, forever. Then we will find out in ten years whether or not a few subways will solve the traffic problem. Do you think they will?
Frank Mihelcic July 05, 2012 at 03:17 AM
OK! Start digging the pedestrian tunnel under Lankershim by the NoHo redline station.
Greg Fry July 05, 2012 at 03:33 AM
@ Joe Parker If we're broke I wonder why there's so much support in some circles for yet another multi-trillion dollar Mideast war--but back to the question at hand: do I have a problem with a bit of taxes funding something that is actually useful to the American people for a change? Yes I do. Do I think a few subways will solve our traffic problem? Of course not--but I can guarantee that if we don't do anything to expand our transportation infrastructure, our traffic congestion will get exponentially worse--and it's not cheap sitting in gridlocked traffic burning five-dollar-a-gallon gas either.
Greg Fry July 05, 2012 at 03:37 AM
Sorry--the above should read that I have NO problem directing a bit of tax money towards a project that will actually benefit the American people with improved infrastructure. Also, improved rail transit will synergize itself over time as we build a network that will go more and more places.
Joe Parker July 05, 2012 at 04:39 AM
One subway, the Purple Line, which will take us to the Veteran's Hospital, will cost taxpayers $5.6 billion. "a bit of tax money?" You win the prize for understatement of the day! Before spending this money, don't you think we should look at other options - options that might substantially allay the traffic and not force us to pay a sales tax forever?
Skraeling July 05, 2012 at 09:07 PM
in time it will since we are borrowing with record low interest rates and will be paying back that money in a time of high inflation which is sure to come with a GOP dominated government...We would be foolish not to take advantage of what has been proven throughout history. My complaint of big spending is directed the trillions we spend on defense and creation of new enemies so we can justify this as our nation decays...
Joe Parker July 06, 2012 at 03:37 AM
@Jack "in time it will" In time what will? What is "it"? You are right that borrowing now is better than later, but why not use the money to alleviate the traffic problem in a creative and less expensive way than boring holes through the ground. I can't vote for a forever sales tax if I think in ten years we will still be encountering horrendous traffic problems.
Simon July 06, 2012 at 06:27 AM
@Joe. Transit projects don't solve traffic (e.g., Manhattan, Hong Kong, etc.) but create alternatives to sitting and rotting in your car. L.A. will never not have traffic again, but they could have more options to getting places (e.g. subway to Westwood).
Sean McCarthy July 06, 2012 at 02:23 PM
Scott, if the LA City Council is terminally corrupt then the Beverly Hills City Council is as inept in dealing with Metro as Andy of Mayberry! Where was BH all those years ago when the routes were being debated? Has the city ever asked, no demanded a seat on the Metro board? Duarte has a rep on Metro's board of directors! Why was Beverly Hills unrepresented?
Sean McCarthy July 06, 2012 at 02:33 PM
I agree with Simon. Build for the world we have, not the one we fantasize with subways and bike paths. This is a car society. Build more smart roads and connect congested corridors with rapid transit that recognizes that people will drive to locations where they can take advantage of public transit. We don't need a twenty year plan to build a subway under the Santa Monica Mountains. What we need is a five year project to build roadways from the Valley to the west side and under the more congested roadways on the west side to key locations like Century City, Beverly Hills and Westwood.
Skraeling July 07, 2012 at 04:15 AM
Well, Sean, so where is all this land to build those freeways and what happens when oil becomes too expensive to use so freely, now that the rest of the world has caught up to the US? And, who will pay for these in addition to maintaining what is here?
Joe Parker July 07, 2012 at 05:50 PM
@Simon I guess I question the wisdom of spending a decade and billions of dollars on one subway route when for far less money and in less time we can update our bus system. That's an alternative "to sitting and rotting in your car."


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