A news conference with U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood was held Wednesday at the Green Line’s Aviation station for the recently announced $545.9-million federally-backed TIFIA loan Metro will receive to help fund construction of the Crenshaw-LAX Line. The loan was first announced in 2010, with the deal closing earlier this month.
Many of the speakers congratulated Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who successfully lobbied Congress to adopt his America Fast Forward program to expand the TIFIA loan program. In plain English: the program will make it far easier for transit agencies to borrow money needed to build projects
“This is a program that the Mayor came to us with,” said Secretary LaHood. “He had a great vision…The U.S. Department of Transportation is very proud to provide the MTA with this $545.9-million TIFIA loan to help build a new light rail line along the Crenshaw corridor.”
The Crenshaw/LAX light rail line will run for 8.5 miles between the intersection of Exposition and Crenshaw boulevards and the Green Line near LAX. The $1.75-billion project is funded by the Measure R sales tax increase approved by Los Angeles County voters in 2008 — with some of the strongest support coming from neighborhoods near the future rail line.
The loan works like this: the federal government puts up the money to guarantee the loan, allowing agencies such as Metro to secure low interest rates and favorable terms that would otherwise be tough, or impossible, to get. The loan is key because it’s money that Metro can use to construct the line now; the loan will then be paid back by Measure R, the half-cent sales tax increase approved by L.A. County voters in 2008 (with some of the strongest support coming from neighborhoods near the future rail line).
If Measure J is approved — extending the Measure R sales tax until 2069 — Metro plans to apply for TIFIA loans to accelerate construction of transit and road projects. The idea is simple: build now before costs rise because of inflation, create jobs and then use future tax receipts to pay back the loans.
Three of the speakers — Metro Board Chair and Supervisor Mike Antonovich, Congresswoman Maxine Waters and Congresswoman Janice Hahn — all made another point: they believe it is vital for the Crenshaw/LAX Line to connect to the terminals at the airport. The project’s station at Century and Aviation is about a mile from the terminal horseshoe.
Another project with Measure R funding — the Airport Metro Connector — is currently under study with several alternatives being considered. Among them: bus rapid transit, light rail and a people mover. Here’s that project’s website.