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Villaraigosa has bullish plan for rail transit projects

If Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has his way, Los Angeles County is about to embark on a commuter rail building boom the likes of which the region has never seen.

On Friday, the mayor will unveil an ambitious but politically risky transportation plan that fast-tracks several high-profile rail projects to be completed within the next decade. That’s a big speed-up because officials have generally been talking about completing them within 30 years.

Villaraigosa has made building more rail a top priority of his administration — though he’s the first to admit it’s going to take more than speeches and good intentions to get it done.

“Yes this is a stretch-goal, yes this is going to be tough, but I think by now folks shouldn’t count me out,” Villaraigosa told The Times in an interview.

“The fact is that this is the most important thing that we can do to alleviate congestion and gridlock, to improve the quality of our air and to really vindicate the people’s will for the need to address transportation,” he said.

The mayor scored a big victory last year when voters approved a sales tax measure to help fund the projects, which include a subway to the Westside, the extension of the Gold Line in the San Gabriel Valley, the extension of the Expo Line to Santa Monica and new rail lines down Crenshaw Boulevard and through downtown L.A.

The mayor’s office estimates that the revenue from Measure R and other available funds would provide only an estimated $5.2 billion if they were to expedite the projects. The rest would have to come from private sector partners, the federal government or other public funding. 

Villaraigosa has made it clear he thinks the Westside subway — by far the most expensive project with a price tag of $5 billion to $6 billion — is his top priority. That has sparked conflict with backers of other rail projects demanding that their lines be given equal consideration.

By fast-tracking projects throughout the region, the mayor could ease those concerns — but only if enough money is available. And that remains an open question.

The mayor’s office says the county needs at least $10 billion in additional funds to complete the projects in 10 years. The first step, he said, is building a regional coalition to promote the project.

Then the hard part — finding sources of funding, whether in the form of public-private partnerships or money from the federal government in the form of a no-interest loan, among other ways, the mayor’s office said.

Villaraigosa said he thinks the federal government would be more likely to give Los Angeles County money for the project than other cities because of the passage of Measure R.

He also thinks it will be an attractive offer because, during tough economic times, it would create thousands of jobs much faster than originally planned.

Art Leahy, chief executive of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, said that, hypothetically, if there was sufficient funding, the agency would be able to accelerate projects and that it may be cheaper to expedite projects now because “right now we’re in a period of relatively low construction costs.”

Villaraigosa will discuss the plan for the first time Friday at the Los Angeles Business Council’s 2009 Mayoral Housing, Transportation and Jobs Summit at UCLA.

He will tell the group that “30 years is too long” to wait and that all 12 transit projects he wants to expedite can be built in a decade. It’s called the “30/10” plan, and he will joke that some might say he’s “coming up with another dream.”

“The projects are going to happen, there’s no question about that, and I’m going to be very aggressive at getting federal funds.... My goal is to make it happen sooner rather than later,” Villaraigosa said. “I recognize that it’s a daunting task, but I love the challenge and I’m up for it.”

--Ari B. Bloomekatz

Comments () | Archives (43)

Go Mayor Villaraigosa! Thanks for your strong leadership on this important issue for the future of Los Angeles and thanks for making it your number one priority to get the Westside subway built in 10 years. There is any army of public transit supporters who have your back. We want L.A. to realize its dream of being a world-class city with world-class public transportation. I can't wait to hop on the subway from downtown to Santa Monica. Keep up the good fight Antonio.

Finally someone and something starts to make some senses now. If the rail can be powered by some Solar generator, it will move the LA back to be some city can be top of world again. Well done!!!

Thank God ! Im tired of sitting on the stinking 405. Just do it.

As much as i dislike this current mayor, i must comment that he has the right idea and it is about time to start planning for these projects. I still disagree with the subway to the sea thing, if only it was above ground and all those people on the west side would give in, but we all know that wont happen. As for other lines, i say speed those up, lets get going and find ways to fund these projects. Here is what i still dont get, why doesnt LA County and the MTA work with the surrounding counties such as Orange, SB and ventura to get a regional plan tgoether. Has anyone ever noticed how many people commute from those counties into LA county daily? I have, and i know im not the only one.

GOOD news! I'm glad that the mayor is making this a top priority; with the horrendous traffic in this city/county, this is a long overdue proposal and 30 years is indeed too long!

Maintaining our ability to move people and goods quickly and economically between our county's major population and employment centers will decide whether we thrive or flounder as our population grows, imported fossil fuels dry up and our environment deteriorates. We must unite county-wide to prioritize transit projects which will best help all of us, to get at least as many federal and state dollars returning to us as we pay in taxes and to leverage our public investments with private funds. We will cut off our noses to spite our faces if we fail to follow Mayor V's lead in this vital effort.

They cannot let this happen! If this goes through we might be able to get around town without automobiles. NOOooooooooooooo!!!!!!!

Los Angeles had a great urban rail system called the Pacific Electric Railway. The So Cal Automobile Association, General Motors and the LA Times campaigned to destroy it in the 50s. Now the whole thing is going to be built again. I'd say go after these three entities for funding but what are you going to do - sue GM? For what?

we do have buses don't we? uh, can we use all that money and fix our LA school system? granted buses are not sexy/flashy but they do the job well our schools on the other hand are a step above criminal.

Deal with mass transportation now or deal with it later when things are even more problematic. Pity the car manufacturers destroyed the original system.

I am so pleased with all of the progress that Mr. Villaraigosa has made and leadership shown with Los Angeles Transportation woes. I truly smile thinking about the future system and can't wait for all of these projects to be built, bullet trains in all. The westside subway is very important and is decades overdue. People laugh when they come to LA and they see the freeways and say, "Ha, I bet this was the same 30 years ago!" Far to long local politicians could not see the forest through the trees and we all have suffered. Heaven forbid, if I actually want to go to Santa Monica in the morning and have some Kim chi in Korea town in the same day. Can it actually be possible to go the Redondo Beach for the lobster festival if you live in Pasadena or what about the opposite to go to the Rosebowl? PLEASE SUPPORT MASSIVE BUILDING PROJECTS AROUND ALL LA, HELP TO MAKE LA SMALLER AND MORE INTIMATE; IT CAN AND SHOULD BE. I believe the subway is our flash point. Please don't let your politician fool you into thinking that they should be more focused with their district vs. that one. Someone in Lakewood benefits from a subway in Santa Monica just like a Santa Monica resident benefits from a 710 expansion or a 5 freeway expansion. (why is that not happening too, immediately like it is in OC...3 lanes each way, give me a break!)

Don’t forget the freeways too, they are really overdue the 101 through Hollywood is horrible because downtown hasn’t seen freeway construction in 30 years. The 5, 60, 101, 110 N interchanges need to be widened as well, and this is not about letting some rich guy in Calabasas get to work faster at your expense be vocal, thanks for supporting Measure R it’s a great start.

From a Corona resident.

Connecting the Green Line the last mile to the airport should give the most bang for the buck. That might take 50,000+ car rides a day off the 405.

Opposition from shuttle/taxi companies killed it last time, they were worried their business would drop. Of course it will drop, that's the point, but how much clout do they have? BART in San Francisco had to wait 20+ years to connect to SF airport, for the same selfish reasons.

I'm all for investing in a subway connecting the Westside to the rail system, but.... but, holy moly, bike lanes are cheaper! How about a bike lane through Beverly Hills? Or along Santa Monica Blvd in Hollywood? Or in the dangerous gaps in West L.A.? Throw us a bone. And share the road. :)

This means I'll be alive to use it.....cool

The Wilshire Bl subway makes perfect sense due to density, traffic, geography & more.

The Exposition Bl Line I wonder about because the Wilshire line is so close in Santa Monica. But, I guess the job centers of south Santa Monica (Watergarden, MTV, etc) could use the link, and connecting USC to the Westside as well as the Blue Line is an almost guaranteed win.

If the Feds have billions of newly printed dollars for Detroit, Pakistan & the Mideast, then they should be able to find some for LA's subway.

A link to expand the map would help, can't read...

How about a link to that map or a better resolution image so we can see it clearly.

It's about time the Westside gets a subway. I've been taking the bus for years from Olympic-Robertson to downtown.
Let's get to be like New York. There are too many that suffer without decent public transportation, including the elderly.

Good going Mayor! I am surely glad that someone of authority has finally realized the absurdity of the 30 year plan, in a city that is strangling by traffic and smog today.

Gee, maybe if Pelosi and buddies in Congress had waited last January and thought about what they should spend stimulus money on (or even paused to read the bill...), this may have been at the top. L.A. is choking in traffic, and the only way out is to get rid of some of the cars. How else can we get people out of their cars? Wait until everyone is unemployed and just stays home to collect welfare? Maybe that's Obama's plan all along.

He's got a point. I didn't think R would pass, but...hey... And 30/10 would be an impressive legacy. Years later (ok, months in Los Angeles) he would be remembered as "The Subway Mayor" instead of "that guy who was never there and had an affair."

So, Mr. Mayor - pull out the stops! Don't forget to remind the administration in Washington that although you supported Hillary, our native son David Geffen was an early, early Obama supporter. And maybe the Los Angeles of 2020 won't be choking to death on its own traffic.

I hope the mayor can fasttrack these projects. with the coming of highspeed rail to california within the next 8 years, Los angeles will need all these rail lines to complement Hsr.

By now we shouldn't count you out?

Tony, why not actually produce a result for once in your political career. Then we might take you seriously.

If Villaraigosa can do this, he'll have my vote again. I was just saying to a friend today that the mayor should push through a subway measure. He's going to have to use every scrap of political will and juice he's got to make this happen, opposition be damned. Traffic is a joke now, which makes LA a national joke, and everyday Angelinos' commutes unbearable. Tax gas if you have to. Apparently, people are willing to pay up to $5 a gallon. And maybe a tax credit to people who use public transportation? These are all doable and commendable options.

!!!!! hurray !!!! its bout time !!!!!! god speed Villaraigosa god speed!!!

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