Despite eliminating nearly all funding for Amtrak's long-distance passenger service, President Bush's new transportation plan calls for setting aside $80 million for extending Los Angeles' light-rail line to the city's Eastside.
Under the plan, money would be earmarked to help pay for a new 6-mile route that would extend the city's Gold Line to Little Tokyo, Boyle Heights and East Los Angeles.
Such projects increase mobility and help create an "economic spark" for American cities, said U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta, in a telephone news conference Tuesday. The president's $59.5-billion transportation plan, subject to approval by Congress, would cut total federal transportation spending by 3.3%, down from $61.5 billion in this year's budget, according to the Transportation Department.
But the Federal Transit Administration, which makes funding recommendations for new rail and rapid bus projects, would see its budget rise by 6%, to $8.8 billion.
Local transportation officials praised the support for the Eastside line.
"It will take the load off us from having to use local dollars," said James de la Loza, the planning chief for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
Amtrak, which received more than $1 billion in federal funding this year, would get zero under the plan.
In a letter to employees, Amtrak president and chief executive David Gunn decried Bush's plan. "They have no plan for Amtrak other than bankruptcy."
The president's plan would provide $360 million to bolster other passenger and freight rail lines if Amtrak folded.
Currently, California provides $71.1 million to subsidize Amtrak service in the state. Amtrak runs the Pacific Surfliner from San Diego to San Luis Obispo, which drew 2.3 million riders last year and is the agency's most popular route outside the Northeast. Amtrak also runs the Sunset Limited from Los Angeles to Orlando, serving fewer than 100,000 passengers a year.
"There would have to be a policy call as to what the state would do, whether the state would take [Amtrak] over ... have a partnership with local governments," said H.D. Palmer, spokesman for the state Department of Finance. "All of this is yet to be fleshed out."