The Westside L.A. subway expansion and a plan to build a light-rail link through downtown L.A. took a small step closer to reality this week when the MTA board agreed to submit the projects for federal funding.
Officials for years have been planning a subway that would run from Koreatown to Santa Monica, probably along Wilshire Boulevard. The project, with an estimated price tag of $5 billion or more, is considered a top priority of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.
The "regional connector" in downtown L.A. would link the Blue and Gold rail lines and offer rail service through the city center.
Experts say the projects will be difficult to complete without federal funding. MTA staff said the vote was critical because there were no Los Angeles projects vying for new money from the U.S. Department of Transportation's "New Starts" funding program.
"In federal fiscal year 2011 our agency could, for the first time in six years, not be a recipient of federal New Starts funding for a major rail capital project," MTA staff wrote in its recommendation to the board. "Over the past six years we have received, on average, $80 million per year in federal rail funding through the New Starts program."
MTA board members and staff said they hoped to receive more money in coming years, and released data on other cities with smaller populations than L.A. that will reportedly receive larger amounts of funding in the 2010 fiscal year.
Depending on whether the projects are approved and how much federal funding is provided, the move could help Villaraigosa achieve his goal of speeding up the timeline of building the multibillion-dollar Westside subway extension.
It is slated to be built by 2036, but the mayor has said he wants it completed in 10 years.