Very good news today for the Westside Subway Extension: a $640.8-million loan neared final approval for the project by the U.S. Department of Transportation, according to Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein.
The loan is coming from the TIFIA program, which is the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act. TIFIA loans are helpful because they offer the ability to lock down good interest rates and repayment terms.
The loan will be paid back with funds from Measure R, the sales tax increase approved by L.A. County voters in 2008. The trick with Measure R funds is that they flow in slowly over time and have to be split among the many Measure R projects. A loan, on the other hand, is money that can be spent now on the subway project, which carries a hefty pricetag of about $5.3 billion if built in the next decade. Which is still no sure thing.
Under Measure R and the agency’s long-range plan, Metro is planning to build the subway in three phases: to Fairfax by 2019, Century City by 2026 and Westwood by 2036. But Metro is trying to persuade Congress to approve the America Fast Forward plan that would expand TIFIA and other federal financing to speed up the construction of big and expensive transit projects. The loan helps that cause but does not ensure it will happen.
Here’s Metro’s TIFIA application for the subway, which lists June 30, 2022 as the opening date for service to Westwood — the hope under America Fast Forward. That’s a projection obviously and not written in stone, but nonetheless interesting. The application also has construction beginning in earnest in 2013, a date we’ve heard in the past from Metro staff.
The news release from Senators Boxer and Feinstein is posted after the jump.
Feinstein, Boxer: Westside Subway Extension in Los Angeles Nears $641 Million Loan
Department of Transportation loan would extend subway system into West Los Angeles; construction would create at least 40,000 jobs in Southern California
Washington—Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer (both D-Calif.) today announced that the U.S. Department of Transportation has taken a major step in approving a key federal loan for the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LA MTA) to extend its subway system into West Los Angeles. The project is one of only eight nationwide invited to move into the final approval phase.
The $641 million federal loan commitment would help fund the construction of a high-capacity, nine-mile extension of the Metro Purple Line subway from the existing Wilshire/Western station to a proposed Westwood/Veterans Affairs Hospital station once negotiations are complete.
Because of the high number of job centers including Century City, Beverly Hills and Westwood/UCLA, the Westside currently attracts more than 300,000 daily commuters from across the greater Los Angeles region.
The Westside Subway extension is part of Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and LA MTA’s “30/10 Initiative,” a $14.8 billion plan to build 30 years of transit projects in the next decade. LA MTA estimates the extension project will create more than 40,000 new jobs during construction.
The loan will be repaid with funds collected under Measure R, a half-cent sales tax approved overwhelmingly by Los Angeles voters in 2008.
Senator Feinstein said: “Los Angeles is the largest city in our country without a comprehensive subway system. That needs to change. I urged the Department of Transportation to make this loan to LA MTA in order to begin construction on the Westside extension and to establish a world-class transit system in a city that desperately needs one.”
Senator Boxer said: “I am so pleased that the Westside Subway Extension project is advancing and attracting national attention as a model of how we finance and build transit projects nationwide. As Chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, I am working on a new transportation bill that will help communities like Los Angeles to leverage local, state and federal investments in transportation projects that will create jobs and ease traffic congestion.”
Separately, Senator Feinstein expressed disappointment that the Riverside County Transportation Commission (RCTC) did not receive a TIFIA loan this year for improvements to State Route 91. However, Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood indicated to Senator Feinstein that he strongly encouraged RCTC to reapply for a TIFIA loan to improve State Route 91. He expressed to Feinstein his strong enthusiasm for the project and his belief that it would compete successfully for the loan next year once it has completed the necessary permitting.
The improvement of State Route 91 will add three lanes in each direction, including four toll lanes. In a recent letter to Secretary LaHood, Senator Feinstein urged a federal loan for the project to reduce congestion and more efficiently move goods from the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach to the rest of the country. RCTC estimates the improvement of the 91 freeway will create 16,200 jobs, including 4,600 jobs in Riverside County.
Senator Feinstein said: “Taken together, these nationally important infrastructure projects have the potential to improve the lives of millions of Californians while substantially growing the regional economy and improving livability across Southern California.”