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Get federal funding for transit on track

There are several projects that could be left behind because the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is only focusing on two longer-range transit proposals.

October 22, 2009|Judy Chu, David Dreier and Adam Schiff | Judy Chu (D-El Monte), David Dreier (R-San Dimas) and Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) are members of the House of Representatives.

With the passage of Measure R last November, Los Angeles County's citizens made a $40-billion investment in transportation infrastructure that will create jobs, increase mobility to centers of commerce and neighborhoods, and make the region a more attractive destination. Voters overwhelmingly approved a sales-tax increase because they understood how much work needs to be done to stimulate our economy and reduce congestion. Now we need to leverage Measure R funds with a fair share of federal funding.

Despite our disproportionately large need, the county has received significantly less federal funding for transit projects than other metropolitan areas. Measure R cannot fully fund the many projects our county needs. We need federal funds to expand the pot, complete the vision and at the same time help the county's hard-hit economy.

Unfortunately, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is putting many parts of the region at risk of being left behind by limiting the county's long-range federal "asks" to just two projects -- the Westside subway extension and light rail downtown to connect the Red, Purple, Blue and Gold lines. These are two crucial projects, but it is highly unlikely that federal funding can be allocated to them quickly. It usually takes seven to 10 years from the beginning of the application process for a subway or light-rail transit project to become eligible for federal dollars. In the meantime, the county should be making use of federal funds for other important projects, but in order to do that, the MTA has to include them in its federal funding request.

Along with a bipartisan group of 11 other Southern California members of Congress, we believe that these three projects could be ready to go in the short term:

* The Gold Line extension project east of Pasadena, from Azusa to Montclair. It is far enough along in development to receive federal transit funds before the Westside subway or the light-rail project downtown.

* The Crenshaw/South Bay Transit Corridor, a rail line that would connect Los Angeles International Airport with the Green Line and the Expo Line under construction between downtown and Culver City.

* The Gold Line extension from East L.A. to South El Monte or Whittier, an area that is expected to experience 30% population growth over the next 20 years.

Proponents of the current plan on the MTA board believe that, if we expand our current federal plan, it will pit projects against each other and none may be funded. We disagree. Requesting funds for multiple projects will bring more money into more parts of the county, and sooner rather than later. Other regions have been able to get federal funding for multiple projects and carry them out; we believe Southern California has the will and workforce ready to do so also.

At a time when unemployment is at a record high in our region, we must maximize the dollars coming into the county for good-paying jobs and needed infrastructure by being united as a region and in Washington. The only way that can work is if we do not close doors on some projects at the expense of others. Southern Californians need them all.

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