Well-placed Valley members of the California Legislature helped push through $100 million in the new state budget for a north-south public transportation corridor along Van Nuys Boulevard in the East Valley.
Those funds, along with millions for park development in the Valley, are part of the state's 2000-2001 $99-billion budget approved this week and now awaiting Gov. Gray Davis' signature. In addition to the north-south corridor, the budget also calls for $145 million to ease east-west Valley travel.
"Unfortunately, when it comes to transportation, we have focused on east-west travel," said Assemblyman Tony Cardenas (D-Sylmar). " . . . We needed something to go down the Van Nuys corridor, where we have many people who use public transportation. This budget will give us that."
State Sen. Richard Alarcon (D-Sylmar), who introduced the east-west routes into the transportation package, said the money would go to creating bus lanes, possibly along Van Nuys and Lankershim boulevards in the east and Sepulveda Boulevard in the west. Relaxing bunched-up traffic on the 101, 134 and 405 freeways is a budget priority, Alarcon said.
Valley residents see the designated bus lanes on freeways and surface streets in other areas of the city, Alarcon said, and they feel they have not had a fair share of transportation funding from the state.
"When you look at the last 10 years, clearly the MTA has spent the bulk of its funding for infrastructure in other areas of L.A.," Alarcon said. "It was time to ameliorate some of the negative feelings in the San Fernando Valley. This year, because we had a burgeoning in unanticipated revenues, we have a chance to address the perceived or real disparity in terms of funding coming to the Valley."
In addition to the transportation funds, the budget includes many Valley projects:
* $90 million to expand carpool lanes on the San Diego Freeway through Sepulveda Pass.
* $21 million for improvements to the Ventura/San Diego freeway interchange.
* $16 million for automated traffic signals along the Victory, Ventura and Sepulveda boulevard corridors.
* $6.5 million for side tracks to allow slow-moving trains in Sun Valley to get out of the way of faster ones.
* $4 million for the Los Angeles Children's Museum.
* $2 million for the San Fernando Valley Los Angeles River Greenway.
* $1 million for the expansion of Las Palmas Park Multipurpose Center in San Fernando.
* $400,000 for mini-parks in Glendale.
Alarcon, Senate majority whip, said having high-ranking legislators based in the Valley facilitated working key items into the budget. Speaker of the Assembly Bob Hertzberg (D-Sherman Oaks), his predecessor, Antonio Villaraigosa (D-Los Angeles), and Cardenas, who sat on the budget conference committee, supported the transportation package.
Area legislators also have aggressively pursued funding for park development in the Valley. Projects approved include restoring Tujunga Wash, expanding Blythe Street Park and turning Hansen Dam into a multipurpose recreation center with a skateboard park and Children's Museum.
"When I authored Proposition 12, it was with the intention that almost half the $900 million for urban parks would come to the area, and I wanted to make sure the Valley got its fair share," Villaraigosa said.
By working as a unit, the legislators believe they can lasso some of the statewide appropriations into the San Fernando Valley. For example, Cardenas said, a hefty portion of the $65 million earmarked for upgrading public-health clinics should be directed here.
"I was the youngest of 11 children with a single mother who only had a third-grade education," Cardenas said. "Those health clinics were our safety net. There are thousands like me in the northeast Valley who really need that safety net, and I believe we will be able to upgrade those clinics that have had the same equipment since I went there as a kid."