Congress may lift L.A. subway curbs

first_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREMeanwhile, Sen. Dianne Feinstein on Monday called the repeal “long overdue” and said she will work to have it put to a Senate vote as soon as possible. With only three weeks left in the legislative session, however, it remains unclear if the bill can be signed into law this year. Building the so-called subway to the sea has emerged as one of Villaraigosa’s top transit priorities. The mayor said Monday he met with Waxman last week during a lobbying trip to Washington and he expects the bill will be successful when it comes before Congress. The decades-old plan essentially withered when a methane explosion in 1985 raised serious concerns about safety, and Waxman pushed through legislation banning the use of federal funds for tunneling projects in the Fairfax area. He reversed his position in 2005 after a five-member panel of experts issued a report declaring that advancements in construction technology now made tunneling safe. Cost, however, remains a major issue for some members of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, who also sit on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority board. Construction on the subway is projected to last 15 years and cost about $300 million per mile, totaling $3.9 billion. Adjusted for inflation, the final cost would be about $4.8 billion. “The future of commuter rail is not underground,” said Tony Bell, spokesman for Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich. “It’s too expensive and it’s too disruptive to our communities.” Arguing that Waxman’s bill will take crucial federal dollars away from other projects – connecting San Bernardino and Ventura counties, for example – Bell said Santa Monica, Beverly Hills and L.A. should find a way to fund a subway on their own. The almost 90 other cities and 134 unincorporated communities that would be affected by the subway, he said, “have no interest in a drain to the sea.” Waxman said he also is mindful of the cost but maintained the subway is necessary to relieve traffic congestion along the heavily traveled corridor. “I know it is a very high priority for Mayor Villaraigosa. It is an essential part of the plan he has to alleviate traffic problems,” Waxman said. “I don’t want a bill that was passed 20 years ago to stand in the way.” MTA spokesman Mark Littman said the board this summer approved hiring planning staff to examine the possibility of a Red Line extension. But no votes on actually funding the subway work will come until next year, he said. While MTA officials have given no estimate on how many people would ride the subway, Littman projected it would become one of the region’s most popular lines. “Based on our bus experience, we know we’ll carry a lot of people out there,” he said. While supporters of the Red Line extension also are banking on getting money from the state infrastructure bond measure on the Nov. 7 ballot, Littman said the ability to obtain matching funds from Washington is crucial. The federal government chipped in about $2 billion for the original Red Line work – nearly half the cost of that project, he said. “Lifting this prohibition would be a major boost to the project,” he said. lisa.friedman@dailynews.com (202) 662-8731160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! WASHINGTON – After 20 years, Congress is about to declare it safe for Los Angeles to build a subway to the sea. A bill by Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Los Angeles, set for a House vote Wednesday, would repeal a two-decades-old ban that Waxman himself authored prohibiting the use of federal dollars to tunnel through the Wilshire corridor. The measure’s passage would pave the way for Washington to help fund Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s almost $5 billion transit vision of a 15-mile Metro Red Line extension from Wilshire Center to the Pacific Ocean. “This is good news,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, whose district is divided by Wilshire Boulevard. “If it is approved and signed by the president, it would resurrect the option of using federal funds. We will be able to talk credibly about extending the Red Line for the first time in 20 years.” Waxman’s bill has the strong support of Rep. David Dreier, R-Glendora, and is expected to easily pass the House. last_img read more