Adopting a compromise solution drafted by Mayor Richard Riordan, the county transit agency Wednesday unanimously approved a $3.7-billion budget that clears the way for construction of the Pasadena rail line.
The new budget will finance additional buses to 25 overcrowded routes and sets aside $40 million to pay for the design of the Pasadena line, which would be a trolley service similar to the Metro Blue Line. The spending plan also calls for the agency to look for another $57 million to launch construction of the hotly contested and much-lobbied project.
"This is a relief," said Franklin White, chief of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. "The Pasadena line was the single most difficult issue relating to adopting the budget."
Facing an unexpected $258-million budget shortfall, the board overshot its original June goal of approving a budget and struggled to devise a funding formula for construction of proposed rail lines.
In his proposed budget, White had suggested the allocation of $40 million for the 13.6-mile Pasadena line--an action that would have meant postponing the scheduled 1997 opening by at least a year. In response, MTA board Chairman Richard Alatorre had intended to propose allocating $138 million for the start-up of the Pasadena line, a portion of which runs through his district.
But Riordan's plan became a compromise. Board members said the new budget toes the line between some board members who are concerned about fiscal prudence and others, including Alatorre, eager to keep the Pasadena line alive.
Riordan had reason to help Alatorre, who endorsed him during the mayoral campaign and offered much-needed support during the aborted appointment of Xavier Hermosillo as fire commissioner.
Balancing competing proposals, the budget guarantees $40 million for the Pasadena line and promises an additional $57 million if the agency can cut costs in other areas or find a sufficiently large pot of available money within 30 days. No money will be spent on construction until funding sources have been identified and approved by the MTA board. The total cost of the line is expected to reach $841 million.
"Very clearly, Pasadena is something that is going to happen," Riordan said. "This is a compromise."
Pasadena officials were elated that the money was allocated and that additional money will be sought.
"We are pretty confident that the MTA is going to find (the extra $57 million)," Pasadena Mayor Rick Cole said. "This is a tremendous victory."
Under the spending plan, opening of the Pasadena line will be delayed about six months, from November, 1997, to April, 1998, said Laurence Weldon, project manager with the MTA's construction arm, the Rail Construction Corp.
Critics, however, blasted the budget compromise, saying that the agency needs to improve bus service instead of searching for more money for rail.
The budget also sets aside money for:
* An additional 40 buses for the MTA's 25 most crowded routes.
* Subsidizing current bus and train fares so increases are not necessary.
* Another 130 transit police.
* Purchasing more than 320 new buses.
Meanwhile, in an unrelated action, the MTA voted unanimously to instruct staff to begin applying for federal funds to pay for half of a San Fernando Valley line that could cost as much as $2.79 billion.
Financial problems for the line arose in June, when MTA board members discovered that shrinking tax revenues meant that construction of the Valley line would have to be postponed for up to 10 years unless other funding sources could be found. Previously, construction was to begin in early 1995. The first phase was to be completed by 2000.
Crowded Bus Routes The Metropolitan Transportation Agency's new budget seeks to address the problem of overcrowded buses by adding extra runs on 25 different routes around Los Angeles. Here's a look at ridership on the routes that will get additional buses:
Average Line Route Area Riders 1 Hollywood Blvd. West LA 64.3 2/3 Sunset Blvd. West LA 67.0 14/38 Beverly/ West LA/South Central 65.5 Adams Blvds. 16 W. Third St. West LA 67.9 18 W. Sixth St. West/East LA 66.7 /Whittier 26/51 Virgil Ave./ West LA/South Central 65.8 /7th St/Avalon Blvd. 30/31 Pico Blvd. South LA/East LA 72.2 /E. First St 33/333 Venice Blvd. West LA 66.6 45/345 Broadway South Central/West LA 70.3 53 Central Ave. South Central 68.0 66/67 W. 8th St. West/East LA 74.5 / E. Olympic 68 W. Wash. Blvd West/East LA 71.0 /Brooklyn Ave. 70 Garvey Ave. East LA/San Gabriel Valley 66.7 81 Figueroa St. East LA/South Central 65.6 94 San Fernando Road SFV 68.7 105 Vernon Ave West LA/South Central/ECC 65.3 /La Cienega Ave 108 Slauson Ave. South Central/ECC 66.8 152 Roscoe Blvd. SFV 67.3 164 Victory Blvd/Vanowen St. SFV 68.3 166 Nordhoff St. SFV 65.5 180/181 H'wood West LA/SGV 73.8 /Glendale/Pasadena 204/354 Vermont Ave. West LA 68.4 /South Central 206 Normandie Ave. West LA 70.2 /South Central 207/357 Western Ave. West LA 66.1 /South Central 560 Van Nuys Blvd. SFV/West LA 65.5 /Westwood/LAX
SOURCE: Metropolitan Transportation Authority