The Reagan Administration today launched a new offensive against Los Angeles Metro Rail, claiming that local agencies can afford to build the entire subway without additional federal funds.
At a Washington press conference, Ralph Stanley, head of the Urban Mass Transportation Administration, said that, because of the availability of local and state funds for the $3.3-billion project, his agency will provide only the $225.7 million already appropriated by Congress in a funding contract now being negotiated.
That would leave $203 million that Metro Rail supporters are hoping to obtain from Congress in future years for the first 4.4-mile segment.
"This project is something the region can afford. . . . Metro Rail can be afforded, whether it's 4.4 miles, 8.8 miles or 18.6 miles," Stanley said.
Pressure on RTD
Stanley's comments appeared designed both to pressure the Southern California Rapid Transit District to sign a proposed funding contract that he offered in March and to undercut the ability of local officials to argue for more federal appropriations for the downtown-to-San Fernando Valley rail line. RTD officials have been appearing before congressional committees in recent weeks seeking $150 million for Metro Rail in the 1987 budget.
The Reagan Administration opposes the project as too expensive and has delayed the release of construction funds. Late last year, Congress ordered the Administration to enter into negotiations on a contract to provide the full $429-million federal share of the project, including funds not yet appropriated.
The negotiations have bogged down, however, because Stanley has insisted that local funds be committed in lieu of uncertain future federal dollars.
Stanley based his assertion that local funds are available to the project largely on projections of the income to the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission from a half-cent transit sales tax.
He said that at the rate at which that income is expected to grow, the commission can afford to build the entire subway line without "significantly impeding any other local rail projects," such as the planned Los Angeles-to-Long Beach and Century Freeway light rail lines.
Funds Needed Elsewhere
There was no immediate response from RTD officials, but a spokeswoman for the county Transportation Commission said the transit sales tax funds are needed to develop other sections of the full 150-mile commuter rail system.
Supporters of the project who have argued for federal funding have also claimed that Los Angeles, while the second-largest city in the nation and a major source of federal gas tax funds, has not received its fair share of those monies back for mass transit projects.
Stanley said today that his demand that local funds be used to make up the gap in future federal funding is not negotiable. However, he added that, if the Metro Rail backers want additional federal funds, the funding contract talks will have to be delayed until the 1987 federal budget is finalized.
Mayor Tom Bradley and RTD officials have said they want a quick resolution of the funding contract issue because engineering is complete. They had hoped to break ground two years ago and had more recently predicted that they would finally begin building the line this spring.