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City of L.A. preps a list of projects for Obama

December 10, 2008 |  4:44 pm

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You've probably heard by now that President-elect Barack Obama has said that he intends to create millions of jobs by providing federal dollars for public works projects. That has gotten the attention of city officials in Los Angeles, who are preparing a list of projects they would like to ask the federal government to fund if Obama's plan goes forward.

The 20-page document (not yet available online) was circulated at Wednesday afternoon's meeting of the City Council's Transportation Committee. Councilwoman Wendy Greuel, the committee chairwoman, warned several times that this was hardly a final list and lots could change. It was largely put together by a variety of city agencies and won't be final until city pols say it's final -- meaning there's going to be a scramble for projects in their respective districts.

So what's on the list? In short, there's lots. Jim Clark, the city's chief lobbyist to the federal government, told the committee were 189 projects totaling more than $7 billion. The criteria to make the list was simple -- projects needed to be under construction within six months and finished within two years. The idea, after all, is to create jobs. That said, Clark also warned council members that there was a lot unknown about Obama's proposed stimulus plan: namely whether Congress would go for it, how much money it may dole out and where those dollars would go.

Among some of the projects listed: Street repair throughout the city, including the bumpathon that has become Wilshire Boulevard; L.A. River bike path improvements and expansion; funding for the elephant exhibit at the zoo (yes, the same one that the council recently put a hold on funding); Los Angeles Convention Center improvements, and Los Angeles International Airport improvements including, money for moving the north runways farther apart (a project still under study) and an improved baggage system for the Bradley International Terminal.

The list also includes some big projects on the transportation front that are within the city of L.A. but are being managed by the L.A. County Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Among these are requests for money for the Expo Line light rail, repaving of parts of the 210 and 60 freeways, 405 freeway "carpool enhancements," a carpool lane for the 5 Freeway between the 170 and 118 freeways in the San Fernando Valley.

Of those, the Expo Line is probably the most politically interesting. The $862-million rail line is currently under construction, but the state Public Utilities Commission has yet to decide how two street crossings will be built near two schools in South Los Angeles. If the PUC votes to require pedestrian bridges or to put the train tracks on a bridge or tunnel near one or both of the schools, that could cost millions of dollars that the Expo Line Construction Authority -- the agency building the line -- says it doesn't have.

The question is whether that could change under Obama's plan.

--Steve Hymon

Photo: Beatrice de Gea/Los Angeles Times