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MTA backs off on plan to divert South Bay highway funds

June 27, 2013|By Christine Mai-Duc
  • A young girl plays at the fountain at Leimert Park, not far from a future MTA station.
A young girl plays at the fountain at Leimert Park, not far from a future MTA… (Gary Friedman / Los Angeles…)

After two weeks of protests by South Bay leaders, the Metropolitan Transit Authority delivered two major victories for the region’s highway program Thursday.

The Metro board had aimed to divert nearly $100 million in funds destined for road and highway projects to pay for increased costs on the Crenshaw/LAX light rail project. Local leaders had protested, saying the money had been promised to South Bay road projects in Measure R, a half-cent sales tax passed by county voters in 2008.

On Thursday, the agency’s board voted to leave Measure R projects intact and, instead, use funds and bonds from Proposition C, another half-cent sales tax passed in 1990.

“It was a victory on a lot of levels. We showed that we can work together well…and we got what we wanted,” said Jacki Bacharach, executive director of the South Bay Cities Council of Governments. The organization helped mobilize more than a dozen South Bay cities, which passed resolutions and sent in letters against the plan.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe, who also sits on the Metro board, helped lead the effort to shift the burden away from the South Bay’s highway program, which promises $906 million over 30 years for more than 100 road projects big and small.

“Leaders in the South Bay did an excellent job of working together to support our efforts to keep projects envisioned under Measure R whole,” Knabe said in a statement.

Separately, the board also allowed the South Bay and other regions to exempt its highway programs from the agency’s plan to accelerate timelines for major projects, an effort many South Bay cities feared would overwhelm their small staffs in the short term and dry up funds for bigger road projects down the line.

The move allows Metro to maintain its acceleration policy for transit projects, including the South Bay’s planned extension of the Green Line to the South Bay Galleria in Redondo Beach. That project will now be completed by 2020 instead of 2035.

“A rail project is very, very different than 100 highway projects,” said Bacharach. “We’re looking forward to it.”

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christine.maiduc@latimes.com

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