The U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations on Thursday awarded $81 million in funding in the 2013 federal budget to two key Metro transit projects in Los Angeles, the Westside Subway Extension and the Regional Connector.
“Thanks to the hard work of Senator Feinstein, today’s vote by the Senate Committee on Appropriations is another positive step towards getting Los Angeles the funding it needs to build a more robust transit network and put thousands of Angelenos back to work,” said Metro Board Chair and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. “This vote keeps intact the $50 million for the Westside Subway Extension and $31 million for the Regional Connector, which is squarely in line with what President Obama included for our New Starts projects.”
President Barack Obama earlier this year recommended the $81 million in federal New Starts money for the projects. The funds still must be approved by the full Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives.
The funds for the Westside Subway Extension and Regional Connector would be the first payment of a much larger commitment to the projects. The subway is ultimately expected to receive $2.4 billion and the Connector $671 million from New Starts, a federal program that helps local areas built large transit projects.
The $81 million will help both projects complete their final design phase and advance to construction. Under current funding plans, the 3.9-mile first phase of the Westside Subway Extension is scheduled to be built along Wilshire Boulevard between Western Avenue and La Cienega Boulevard by 2020.
The 1.9-mile Regional Connector is scheduled to be completed by 2019. The fully underground line would tie together the Gold Line, Blue Line and Expo Line in downtown Los Angeles, allowing Metro Rail passengers to reach many downtown and regional destinations without having to change trains.
Both the Subway and Connector projects are funded in part by Measure R, the half-cent sales tax increase approved by more than two-thirds of Los Angeles County voters in 2008.
In his State of the City speech on Wednesday, Mayor Villaraigosa called for a ballot measure to allow voters to decide whether to extend the Measure R sales tax beyond its 2039 expiration date. The extra sales tax receipts would be used to accelerate the 12 transit projects in Measure R, allowing for the subway to reach Westwood in about a decade instead of 2036.
The Metro Board of Directors would have to approve such a ballot measure; the Board this week just began public discussions of the issue.