The Source: Sacramento lawmakers call for expanded state funding of transit
By Dave Sotero
State lawmakers — Adrin Nazarian, Ben Allen and Richard Bloom — visited a future Palms Expo Line station on Friday morning to urge the passage of two bills to greatly expand transit funding.
With the State’s roads, bridges and freeways slowly falling into disrepair due to lack of infrastructure funding, Governor Brown has called for a Special Session for legislators to discuss ways to address the problem. So far, public transit, which has its own infrastructure funding crisis, has not been part of the discussions.
Transit advocates statewide are now entering the fray, arguing that public transit has a similar funding shortfall of about $72 billion over the next decade. Some legislators are now proposing ways to increase transit funding via additional Cap and Trade revenues, raising the tax on diesel fuel and other measures.
Additional State dollars will clearly be needed in L.A. County, whose transit building boom is now in full swing thanks to the efforts of local voters who passed a new half-cent sales tax increase in 2008.
The 30-year Measure R sales tax is expected to bring in $36 billion in new locally generated revenues to help fund the region’s critically needed transportation improvements. These include five new rail projects that will in the near term add 32 miles of rail service to Metro’s existing 87-mile network. These projects alone total $8.5 billion of local investment and include extensions of the Purple Line, Gold Line, Expo Line, as well as the new Regional Connector and Crenshaw/LAX Line.
Coupled with Metro’s highway projects and other major initiatives, Metro’s transit transportation jumps to $14 billion in projects that are now “in the works.” The magnitude of L.A. County’s local transportation investment represents one of the most ambitious public works project in the nation.
While Measure R and other local sources partially fund these projects, a State commitment also is required to maintain and operate L.A. County’s expanding system. Metro estimates that its transit assets will more than triple from $2.4 billion in 2005 to $7.8 billion in 2025. Keeping these assets in good repair will require $980 million by 2025, easily outpacing future available funding if nothing is done to address the gap.
Because of its density, Los Angeles can no longer build new roads and freeways to solve its transportation problems. Public transit will play an increasingly pivotal role in providing a so-called “pressure relief valve” for mobility improvements, making it possible to move people more easily throughout the region.