Amid reports of people in costumes, shouting matches, and impassioned speeches from politicians (most notably Gloria Molina, member of the LA County Board of Supervisors), Metro managed to pass its long range transportation plan, which sets the agenda for the next few decades of rail, bus, and freeway planning. The big issue was Westside subway vs. Gold Line extension; two projects fighting for top priority. Metro has been prioritizing the subway for federal money because they think they can get more New Starts funds for that project than the suburban Gold Line extension. Well, looks like Metro is still placing the subway (and Downtown Connector) as candidates for federal dollars, but Gold Line-supporters got a sizable bone thrown their way.
An amendment from County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas was passed with the LRTP. It reads:
1. Require Metro to study several possible funding sources that could be used to build the Crenshaw Corridor and Foothill Gold Line Extension lines quicker. These include federal climate change transit funds, special parking districts and benefit assessment districts.
2. Require Metro to begin operating the Foothill Gold Line Extension when the light rail line from Pasadena to Azusa is complete. The long-range plan calls for Metro to begin operating the line in 2017, but the Foothill Gold Line Extension Authority says the line could be built quicker than that.
3. “Metro shall not take or reallocate the portion of Measure R funding which was specifically approved by the voters for bus system improvements and operations.”
4. Re-evaluate funding for widening the 5 freeway from the 605 to 710 freeways.
5. Allocate $1 billion in unallocated funds from the long-range plan to a project that would built truck lanes and HOV lanes on the 5 freeway from the 14 freeway to the Kern County Line.
Also passed was $4.5 million in safety improvements for the Gold Line Eastside Extension, and according to Metro's Source blog, this won't delay next month's opening.
And Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa released a statement on the LRTP: "Today we worked together to build consensus for our regional transportation roadmap. This plan represents our shared vision, and we are now ready to get these projects rolling. The transit projects including the Westside Subway, Regional Connector, Gold Line Foothill Extension, Crenshaw Line, will create much needed jobs, improve our environment and get people places faster. Now, we must work together to get all the Measure R projects built in an efficient and timely manner."
Meanwhile, everyone will be watching how those federal dollars are spent. City Controller Wendy Greuel spoke today at the Los Angeles Current Affairs Forum luncheon, held today at the Wilshire Grand Hotel, and noted that transportation is now the number one issue facing the city. “We have to make sure the federal stimulus money coming is in being spent wisely,” said Greuel, making the comments just about an hour before the plan passed.
· Metro Passes LRTP [Source]