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MTA long on projects, but short on funds

The agency's vision for roads and rail is ambitious, but funding will be scarce, director tells the board.

August 17, 2007|Rong-Gong Lin II | Times Staff Writer

There's a glittering map of L.A.'s transit future.

It shows subways rolling across the city, a rail line gliding into Los Angeles International Airport, new freeways, truck-only lanes and carpool lanes. Rail down Crenshaw Boulevard? Done.

The 710 Freeway finally running all the way to Pasadena? Just merge on. A subway extension from North Hollywood to Bob Hope Airport in Burbank? Pack your bags.

But Thursday, officials said much of that map is now little more than a dream.

Metropolitan Transportation Authority officials have found just $4 billion in additional projected revenue through 2030, despite a need for roughly $30 billion, MTA Chief Executive Roger Snoble said.

That funding would barely make a dent in the county's long list of projects.

Extending a subway that now ends in mid-Wilshire to Santa Monica alone would cost about $5 billion. Completing the 710 Freeway through South Pasadena would cost $2.5 billion.

"I do think there are good projects out there, but I don't think we're going to be able to fund" very many, Snoble told the MTA board Thursday in a report on agency finances as it begins to update its long-range plan this year.

MTA officials will study additional ways to come up with additional revenue, such as introducing "congestion pricing" on local freeways, where motorists would pay tolls to use less-congested lanes.

Officials will also study the idea of a regional gas tax, which would require changes in state legislation.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, an MTA board member, said polling indicates voters would not support a tax increase to support transportation projects, and suggested looking at congestion pricing and public-private partnerships, in which companies would invest in building roads or rail and would benefit by receiving revenue.

Transportation funding has been hit hard over the years, largely because the 36.3-cents-a-gallon gas tax, which pays for transit improvements, has not been raised by either Washington or Sacramento since the early 1990s and does not automatically increase with inflation.

California voters in 2006 approved a $19.9-billion transportation bond, but officials have said that bond money represents a small fraction of transportation needs throughout the state.

State lawmakers have also targeted transportation funding for cuts in the pending budget battle in Sacramento.

The state budget passed by the Assembly cut $1.3 billion from mass transit projects, but failed to pass the Senate.

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ron.lin@latimes.com

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Funding leaves MTA rail projects at the siding

Here are a few of the rail projects the MTA has been looking at in recent years. They are grand plans, but lack the money to make them a reality:

Crenshaw Boulevard light rail: Running south from Wilshire Boulevard through the bustling Crenshaw and Leimert Park districts, eventually going to LAX via Florence Avenue and terminating at the Green Line station at Aviation Boulevard.

Vermont Avenue subway: Running from the Red Line subway in mid-Wilshire down Vermont to the Green Line.

Downtown light rail: A short line connecting the Blue Line to the Gold Line, running through downtown. Would allow commuters a one-train option from Pasadena to Long Beach.

Bob Hope Airport extension: Running the Red Line from its terminus in North Hollywood to the Metrolink station near Bob Hope Airport in Burbank.

Burbank-Glendale light rail: Running from Union Station roughly following the 5 Freeway through Glendale to the Burbank Metrolink station.

Silver Line: Running from Hollywood through downtown and Alhambra into the San Gabriel Valley, ending at La Puente.

Whittier light rail: Extending the Gold Line from East L.A. (a station now being built) to Whittier.

South Bay light rail: Expanding the Green Line both north and south, creating a route that would run from Santa Monica through the South Bay Galleria to Wilmington.

Yellow Line: Light rail connecting North Hollywood to downtown L.A., roughly along the 5 Freeway, then through Silver Lake and Echo Park.

-- Rong-Gong Lin II

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