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LA's public transit projects get boost from federal dollars

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa joined Sen. Barbara Boxer on top of the San Diego (405) Freeway to celebrate the passage of a federal bill that will finance public transit projects in Los Angeles County.
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa joined Sen. Barbara Boxer on top of the San Diego (405) Freeway to celebrate the passage of a federal bill that will finance public transit projects in Los Angeles County. Alice Walton/KPCC

Public transit projects throughout Los Angeles County could be completed ahead of schedule thanks to dollars that will be available through the federal Surface Transportation bill, which will be signed tomorrow by President Barack Obama.

The accelerated timeline is contingent on voters’ approval of the Measure R extension on the November ballot. The half-penny sales tax was approved in 2009 to help fund transportation projects in Los Angeles County.  The Metro Board of Directors will now ask voters to extend that tax through 2069 to speed up the construction of light rail and heavy rail projects. 

With the two funding sources, a subway to the Westside of Los Angeles could open in 2023, about 13 years ahead of schedule. The Metro Green Line could reach LAX and the South Bay by 2018, while the Metro Gold Line could connect Whittier and El Monte by 2020.  

The bill will allow cities to apply for funds through the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act. In the next fiscal year, Los Angeles will be eligible to receive $750 million. The second year of the program will make $1 billion available.

The federal program is expected to preserve 2 million jobs nationwide.

“This will help us accelerate some of our programs. This is a win-win,” said Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. "With the extension of Measure R, we're going to see projects like (the 405) accelerated. We're going to see the doubling of the rail system in a much shorter period of time."

Sen. Barbara Boxer, Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky and business and labor leaders joined Villaraigosa on the Skirball Center Drive on-ramp to the San Diego (405) Freeway to celebrate the bill’s passage.

The mayor will be at the White House tomorrow to watch the president sign the legislation. 

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