WASHINGTON — A key House subcommittee Monday rebuffed an attempt by the Reagan Administration to block financing of new rail projects in five cities, including money for the East County leg of the San Diego Trolley.
Ralph L. Stanley, chief of the Urban Mass Transportation Administration, asked Congress for permission to shift $223.6 million already earmarked by Congress for the five cities to renovation projects in 13 other cities.
"In view of the deficit, the Administration does not believe it should start projects it so clearly cannot afford to finish, or leave holes in the ground," Stanley wrote Congress.
Hours later, however, the House Appropriations subcommittee on transportation acted to reject the request. On the strength of a telephone poll of subcommittee members, Chairman William Lehman (D-Fla.) was authorized to write Stanley that the panel "disapproves your reprogramming request."
The Administration needed approval of both the Senate and the House to shift the funds.
At stake is $11.3 million toward the $80-million leg of the San Diego Trolley from Euclid Avenue in East San Diego to El Cajon.
"That's great news," said San Diego City Councilman Dick Murphy, who also serves as chairman of the Metropolitan Transit Development Board. "I am not surprised at Congress rejecting the UMTA recommendations. That is exactly what they did last year and, based on some of my personal conversation with Congressman Lehman, he was certainly positive toward the San Diego Trolley."
In addition to the San Diego money, the Transportation Department tried to cut off $129 million that has been appropriated for Los Angeles, $71.5 million for Miami, $1.8 million for Jacksonville, Fla., and $10 million for St. Louis. The department estimates that it would cost the government $4 billion to complete the five transit systems.
Stanley recommended that the $223.6 million in current funds go instead to revamp existing rail and bus systems in other cities. He proposed giving $145.2 million to subway renovation in New York; Philadelphia; Kearney, N.J.; Chicago; Boston, and San Francisco. An additional $55.8 million would have gone for bus systems in Dallas; Pittsburgh; Minneapolis; Springfield, Va.; Miami; Salem, Ore., and Fitchburg-Leominster, Mass.
The Administration in February proposed no further money for so-called "new start" rail projects such as that in Los Angeles, where the transit district is trying to begin construction on the first four-mile segment of an 18-mile subway. Although the San Diego trolley is already operating and has a leg under construction, the eastern leg is considered a "new start" because no federal money has yet been spent on it.
The Senate, in its version of the fiscal 1986 budget, approved a 25% cut in the $1.3-billion grant program and the House voted no reduction at all. A House-Senate conference committee must resolve the difference.
Times staff writer Daniel M. Weintraub contributed to this article.