Federal New Starts dollars for two Metro rail projects could be threatened

In my old life as a newspaper reporter, I learned after a while not to write too many sky-is-falling-because-our-budget-is-getting-cut stories. And I've tried not to put too many of those on The Source because, well, the last time I looked up, the big blue sky was still there.

That said, Metro is rightfully keeping a keen eye (as usual) on a bill before Congress to fund transportation in the coming 2013-2014 fiscal year that could positively or negatively impact the Purple Line Extension and Regional Connector projects.

Here's the issue in a nutshell. The Democratic-controlled Senate version of the bill funds the federal New Starts program that, in turn, helps fund large and pricey local transportation projects. The Republican-controlled House version of the bill, however, only provides funding for projects currently receiving New Starts money.

That's a problem for the Purple Line Extension and Regional Connector. The subway's first phase (to La Cienega) and the Connector projects are, respectively, $1.2 billion and $670 million in New Starts funding to compliment their Measure R funds. With no New Starts money, both projects could — emphasis on could — be thrown off schedule.

Here's the wrinkle: Both projects are expected later this year to sign full-funding grant agreements with the federal government in order to particpate in the New Starts program. Without such an agreement in place yet, the House version of the bill would deny the projects the New Starts money they need.

How will this be resolved? In a conference committee involving members of the Senate and House who will spend hours negotiating, cajoling and screaming at each other until the issue is resolved. Metro's government relations team is, of course, working on behalf of the agency and talking to members of both political parties in D.C. trying to persuade them that keeping both projects on track is good business and will likely create many jobs not just locally but throughout the U.S. because of the amount of raw materials needed to build new tunnels and track.

Categories: Policy & Funding, Projects

8 replies

  1. The feds can’t even agree to put tougher restrictions on guns even after Sandy Hook.

    If cannabis is now legal in Washington and Colorado for recreational use, California should do the same. We’re already a semi-pot legal state anyway with medical marijuana use. The feds have no right to butt into state matters anyway. Did the feds say no you can’t do that to Washington and Colorado? No they didn’t.

    Besides, legalizing pot is one of the few things that a lot of Democrats, Libertarians, and Republicans in CA agree that it’s a good idea to help CA’s budget.

  2. Pot would work in theory, and I agree somewhat. But wait, that’s Illegal, and the Feds wouldnt let a hammer hit nail if that were the source (no pun).

  3. Republican leaders in the House of Representatives pulled the controversial Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Bill from consideration Wednesday.
    LAX, Hemp products could really contribute to the state revenue. Hemp is used in food, nutrition supplements and animal feeds, and also in fiber glass, fabrics, paper, soaps, cosmetics, paints, coatings and its byproduct could be used eventually in biofuels, among other uses, as hemp proponents explained.

    And growing hemp would be good for job creation, be a more profitable crop for farmers than others, and beneficial for the environment because of its limited input needs and other characteristics of the plant, according to Erik Hunter from Golden, who founded Hemp Cleans, a non-profit striving for regulation and cultivation of industrial hemp.

  4. It wouldn’t surprise me the least bit that if a bill came up in Sacramento to legalize pot in CA and use the taxes placed onto them to fund mass transit projects, such a bill will have a higher chance of passing than waiting for Congress.

  5. Senate passes bill, fails in House. House passes bill, fails in Senate. Same old, same old, gee what else is new?

    Stop expecting Congress to do anything. We’re better off without them. Besides, California is the 7th richest in the world if we were an independent country. There’s a better way to come up with the money on our own. I say we should just legalize and tax marijuana like Washington and Colorado did and use funds from that to build things without waiting eons for federal funding bills to get through Congress.

  6. With way Washington works in not getting anything done, Metro should really start looking at other ways to find money. Has Metro considered diversifying their portfolio by investing in real estate? So much can be done with the properties Metro owns within and near their stations. They can bring in big money for years to come if Metro utilizes their real estate properties more than leaving them just as empty, cold, hard concrete structures.

  7. Long long ago Southern California Transit Advocates (the community group I am an officer of) sent its newsletter to various folks in Congress. I decided this was a waste of time as what happens at the federal level is remote from us ordinary folks. Hats off to Raffi Hamparian and his crew for working on behalf of our region.