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Metro Moving Ahead With Measure R Extension to Speed Up All Kinds of Juicy Transit

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Metro is serious about advancing dozens of transit and freeway projects through an extension of the Measure R tax increase, which budgets billions for things like the Purple Line subway extension and the 405 carpool lane project. The Daily News reports that Metro's board will vote on extending Measure R, which increased sales taxes in 2008 by a half-percent but expires in 2039, at their June 28 board meeting. The tax increase could be extended indefinitely, for another three decades, or simply allowed to run out in 2039. If the board greenlights an extension, then it moves to the arduous process of getting it on the November ballot; Metro has until August 10 to submit a ballot measure to the Registrar. So, why is an extension needed? Because it would allow money to be advanced against future revenues, and thus allow projects to start work immediately or very soon. As it stands now, Metro has to parse out projects knowing there's only a limited amount of money coming in (about $40 billion). An extension of Measure R would mean quicker openings (see image) for a bunch of juicy projects, The Source notes.

If Measure R2 (that's just our name for it) does make it to the ballot, it would need 66.6 percent of voters to endorse it--never an easy threshold (it passed in 2008 with 67.22 percent of voters). Powerful County Supervisor and incoming Metro board chairman Mike Antonovich is not yet endorsing Measure R2, instead waiting for feedback from his northern County constituents.

Speaking of Antonovich, the Daily News also reports that he just tried to divert surplus money from the Orange Line busway extension, which came in $61.6 million under budget and will open next week, to the Gold Line Foothill Extension and the Crenshaw Line, specifically hoping for the addition of a Leimert Park station to the latter project. "No members of the Planning and Programming committee seconded his motion to divert the funds, but Antonovich plans to resurrect it at next week's board meeting," the newspaper reports. Antonovich may feel the Valley is well-covered since the $182 million Orange Line extension was completely paid for by state and local funds and needed no Measure R money--those bucks are now being shifted to other Valley projects, like a busway or light rail down Van Nuys Boulevard.

It may sound like Metro is just bursting at the seams with money, but reports indicate that the transit agency could face budget problems in just a few years. The Daily News also reports that an April Metro report "warned that unless the agency raises more cash to operate its expanding bus and rail system, current service levels would become 'unsustainable' by 2017," and by 2019, Metro could be more than $150 million in debt. The agency has some of the cheapest fares of any major city (a bus or train ride on Metro is $1.50, while a ride on New York transit is between $2.25 and $2.50), so don't be surprised when a fare increase is proposed.
· MTA to vote on indefinite extension of half-percent sales tax for transportation [Daily News]
· Orange Line busway extension to Chatsworth completed under budget [Daily News]
· Mayor Pushing For Measure R Extension to Build 12 Transit Projects in 10 Years [Curbed LA]