Major road and transit projects such as phase one of the Expo Line, the I-405 Sepulveda Pass Improvements Project and the Orange Line busway extension could lose critical funding if the state fails to sell Prop 1B infrastructure bonds this year, according to a Metro staff report.
The problem, in short, is this: still without a budget for the coming year, state lawmakers have canceled Prop 1b bond sales scheduled for this spring and may not sell the bonds in the fall. Los Angeles County is due to receive about $575 million between the two sales, with most of that money paying for construction of big projects.
Among other projects due to receive Prop 1B monies are the widening of the 5 freeway between the 605 and the Orange County border, a new high-tech system to prevent train collisions for Metrolink and the replacement of the Gerald Desmond Bridge at the Port of Long Beach.
Some quick background: California voters in 2006 approved Prop 1B and several other bond measures as a way to raise money for the financially-crippled state. But the budget situation has only worsened in the time since. This year’s budget deficit is about $15.4 billion.
Metro staff are lobbying to ensure the fall bond sales take place. Staff are also drawing up contingency plans should the funding fail to arrive. Los Angeles County could also lose another $96 million in transit funds it expected to receive from a different pool of money — if those funds are taken to plug the deficit. Those dollars are used to help operate Metro’s transit system and support municipal bus lines.
If some or all the funds fail to be distributed to L.A. County, it will ultimately be up to the Metro Board of Directors to decide which projects are built and which are not.
As this story plays out, some other points to consider:
•Road and transit projects create jobs.
•If Metro loses state funds, it could also potentially lose billions of dollars in matching federal funds.
•In many ways big and small, mobility is the linchpin of the state’s economy. Goods need to be moved, people have to get to work.
As the state’s budget crisis deepens, we expect more media stories about the bond sales and transit funds to appear. The Metro Board of Directors will also be discussing the issue in their meetings scheduled over the next two weeks.