Good News! Feds Provide $2 Billion For Subway, Transportation Bill Breezes Out Of Senate EPW

It's a sure thing: LA Metro is receiving a $1.25 billion New Starts grant from the federal government as well as an $856 million federally backed TIFIA low-interest loan for the Purple Line subway extension under Wilshire Boulevard. The agreements were signed Wednesday morning (see photo of LA officials below) and will allow construction to begin later this year. The $2.8 billion extension of the subway, which currently ends at Wilshire and Western, will include new stations at La Brea, Fairfax and La Cienega, and is to be completed by 2023.

Utility relocations are already underway along the subway route on Wilshire and a 75-foot-deep exploratory shaft has been dug across from LACMA. The second phase of the project will extend the subway to Century City in 2026 and Westwood in 2036, but Metro continues to search for ways to accelerate construction of this and other transit projects.

The grants and loans signify a federal vote of confidence in LA Metro, which has gotten more New Starts funding from the federal government recently than at any time during the past two decades, and is in the midst of what is being called the largest public works project since the Great Depression. Earlier this year Metro secured a $670 million New Starts grant and $160 million TIFIA loan to help fund construction of the Regional Connector, which will connect the Blue, Gold and Expo lines in downtown LA to provide "one-seat" rides across the county.

In another piece of good news, on Monday a $265 billion federal transportation reauthorization bill sailed out of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, chaired by U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer, and now goes to the full Senate. The measure would maintain the U.S. DOT's current level of transportation funding, approximately $50 billion per year.

The bill reauthorizes the federal gas tax, which collects about $34 billion a year to deposit into the Highway Trust Fund. This would address mounting concerns that payments to states will have to be stopped in late July when the Highway Trust Fund reaches a fiscal cliff. However, $34 billion/year over 6 years equals only $204 billion, which means the Senate Finance Committee will have to find other funding sources to make up the $61 billion it would take to maintain current funding levels.

President Obama had earlier proposed a 4-year, $302 billion infrastructure spending bill. But Boxer said maintaining current funding levels was the best deal she could reach with Republicans on the committee.

Read more on The Source.

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