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Garcetti backpedals, proposes more modest increase in Vision Zero funding

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The mayor announced $91M for the program earlier this week—but now he says that’s not quite right

Mayor Garcetti wants to spend $91 million on Vision Zero projects in the coming year.
Hayk_Shalunts | Shutterstock

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti is proposing far less money for the city’s Vision Zero traffic safety program than what he announced earlier this week.

The mayor told the Los Angeles Times that he “misspoke” Tuesday when he announced a huge increase in funding for the initiative aimed at eliminating traffic deaths by 2025.

The mayor said he would set aside $91 million for the program in his proposed 2018-19 budget. But on Thursday, when the budget was released, that figure turned out to be exaggerated.

The mayor is calling for just over $90 million in street safety improvements around Los Angeles, but only $37 million of that total would go toward implementing the city’s Vision Zero Action Plan, according to Garcetti’s press secretary, Alex Comisar.

The $90.4 million total devoted to street safety measures would be a $13 million increase over the $78 million that the city spent over the past year.

The City Council approved $27 million for Vision Zero last year and ended up spending about $29 million, says Comisar. That money paid for traffic safety improvements along some of the city’s most dangerous corridors.

The action plan, released at the beginning of 2017, predicted that initial safety measures would cut down on traffic deaths by 20 percent. Instead, overall traffic deaths fell 6 percent, but 135 pedestrians were killed—nearly twice as many as in 2015.

Now, the mayor is doubling down on the program, at least from a financial perspective. In spite of criticism from safety advocates, and even some local officials, that the city hasn’t done enough to inform the public about Vision Zero’s objectives, Garcetti didn’t mention the initiative in his state of the city address Monday.

He tried to remedy that Tuesday, with the announcement of more funding for the program, which he said had already brought more than 1,000 safety improvements to LA’s streets.

The mayor also issued a warning to both drivers and pedestrians: Get off your phones. Whether “looking at Snapchat” in a crosswalk or “checking Waze” while driving, inattentive travelers put lives at risk, Garcetti said, and he promised to step up enforcement of local laws against distracted driving.

Garcetti’s funding proposal for Vision Zero will need to gain approval from the City Council, which has fiercely debated the program’s merits in the wake of driver opposition to some pedestrian-oriented projects.

It’s not clear yet how the $91 million would be spent, but more information on the plan will be revealed when Garcetti releases his full budget proposal Thursday.