Waxman seeks to have Westside Subway Extension project evaluated by feds all at once

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If you’re interested in the Westside Subway Extension project, this letter from Rep. Henry Waxman is well worth reading. It’s short but addresses a CRITICAL topic — how the Federal Transit Administration evaluates the project to determine if it’s eligible for federal funding.

In Waxman’s view, the entire Subway Extension needs to be evaluated now — something that could eventually speed construction of the line.

First, some background.

Metro is in the midst of trying to secure federal New Starts funding for the Westside Subway Extension and Downtown Regional Connector projects. New Starts is the fed’s program that helps local areas build big transit projects and the New Starts money is needed to compliment the Measure R sales tax money going to both the subway and the connector.

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As plans stand right now under the long-range plan adopted last year by the Board of Directors of Metro, the Westside Subway Extension would be completed in three phases — to Fairfax in 2019, Century City in 2026 and Westwood in 2036.

Why so long? Because the subway is a multibillion dollar project and the $4.2 billion of Measure R sales tax money dedicated to the subway project does not flow into local coffers all at once. It takes years to accumulate and must also be shared with other Measure R project

Attentive readers will recall that the Board of Directors are trying to speed construction of many of the Measure R projects through something called the 30/10 Initiative. First proposed by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, the 30/10 plan seeks to secure other  types of federal money — loans, bonds, etc. — to speed up the 12 Measure R transit projects.

Under 30/10, for example, the subway would reach Westwood in 2017, not 2036. BIG DIFFERENCE!!!

That’s one reason Metro and Waxman want the entire project evaluated by the feds now — if the entire project is going to be built at once and not in phases, that work has to be done sooner rather than later.

The other reason to evaluate the whole enchilada/subway at once is that the project, not surprisingly, fares better in several metrics the FTA uses to rate projects. Ridership is one of them and, of course, ridership from the current subway terminus at Wilshire/Western to Westwood is going to be higher than just the first phase between Wilshire/Western and Fairfax.

It remains to be seen how the FTA responds, but I guarantee you The Source is watching closely. In related subway news, Waxman’s letter comes on the heels of a $10-million request by California Senator Dianne Feinstein for $10 million in funding in next year’s budget for planning of the subway and regional connector projects.