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$179 Million in Transportation Projects Approved


The good news is that commuters, Metrolink riders and bicyclists could benefit from $179 million worth of transportation projects approved Thursday by county officials.

The not-so-good news is that these projects still need approval from several agencies, a process expected to take until mid-2001.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority selected 73 projects from 240 proposals, recommending improvements in communities from Palmdale to Catalina Island.

Funding is from Gov. Gray Davis' statewide $1-billion traffic initiative. MTA officials say the governor's allocation is a welcome supplement.

"It is a big chunk of change. Hopefully it will make a difference in people's lives," MTA spokesman Gary Wosk said. "This is all money we had not anticipated. It jump-starts a lot of important transportation projects in Los Angeles County."

The projects include:

* A $14.6-million improvement to the Golden State Freeway and Western Avenue interchange in Glendale.

* Reconstruction of the Valley View Avenue interchange on the Santa Ana Freeway (5) near Santa Fe Springs. Funding of $34 million is for design, right-of-way acquisition and other improvements to rebuild the interchange. The reconstruction is needed to accomodate the widening of the freeway for a high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane. Caltrans is also funding the project, and total cost is $54.7 million.

* In Whittier, the first two-mile leg of a bicycle and pedestrian path from Norwalk Boulevard to Penn Street. The MTA approved $2.3 million for this project which will link Palm Park, schools and the city's Uptown Shopping District. It is the first segment of a 5.1-mile bikeway that will eventually connect to the San Gabriel River Trail. The Whittier portion of the project will cost $3.8 million.

* A North Hollywood automated traffic surveillance and control system that would use an "adaptive" technology that adjusts signals to changing traffic conditions.

Only a handful of such systems exist in the city, said Shahrzad Amiri, an MTA project manager. This project would cover 102 intersections in an area bounded by Roscoe Boulevard and Tuxford Street, the city of Burbank, and Victory and Van Nuys boulevards.

The MTA approved $8.1 million for the system. The total project cost is $10.1 million.

On Thursday, one request was withdrawn. MTA board member and Los Angeles City Council member Hal Bernson had sought $200,000 to buy a shuttle bus to link the Chatsworth industrial park, Warner Center and the Metrolink Chatsworth station.

Board member Gloria Molina had raised concerns that the new service would reduce service in another area.

Bernson instead will ask the city transportation department to lease a shuttle bus--identical to DASH buses--to provide service, said Francine Oschin, Bernson's transit deputy.

"Within 30 to 45 days--we would like to start it as soon as possible," Oschin said.

The MTA's list next goes to the Southern California Association of Governments, in September to the California Transportation Commission and by mid-2001 to federal transit officials for approvals.

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