Metro Misses Out on Federal “New Starts” Funding

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Earlier this week, Streetsblog Capitol Hill’s Elana Schor wrote about the transit agencies across the country that received federal "New Starts" funding.  As is common knowledge now, Los Angeles was shut out, receiving $0 in federal funds in this round of funding from the federal government for the two projects for which they applied, the Regional Connector and the Subway to the Sea.  Yesterday at The Source, Steve Hymon explained why Los Angeles was shut out, but also made the case that the most populous county in the country deserves a share of federal dollars.

The reason: the
projects haven’t yet been designated as official New Starts projects,
although FTA officials are working with Metro on the complex
application process.

As a result, the FY 2011 budget has no New
Starts money for Los Angeles County, the most heavily populated county
in the United States, with 9.86 million people…

…The county did
receive its last installment of nearly $500 million in New Starts money
last year to help pay for the Eastside Gold Line, which opened in
November. In fairness to the feds, it can also be argued that Metro may
have received subway and connector funds this year if the planning
process for both had started earlier than 2007 and the projects were
farther along.

Both advocates for the Gold Line Foothill Extension and opponents of the Expo Line have argued that Metro should apply for "New Starts" money for these projects as well.  Adding more projects to the list of projects Metro submits does increase the chance that Metro will bring home more of that federal bacon; but it also decreases the chance that those projects favored by the Board are the ones that are partially funded.

Regardless of where "the blame" should go for "the most heavily populated county in the United States" getting shut out of this popular transit funding program, let’s encourage both Metro and the Federal Government to make certain this doesn’t happen again next year.

  • ds

    My understanding is that both the Gold Line Foothill extension and the Expo line didn’t receive a high enough rating from the FTA to be eligible for New Starts funding.

    Both the Westside subway and the regional connector will likely get a good rating by the FTA, but the planning for both projects will take at least a few more years to complete. They have to finish their environmental reports before they can even get preliminary engineering funds.

    It looks like LA is going to go through a federal funding drought, partly because of the FTA’s cost-effectiveness rubric, but mostly because LA wasn’t strategic enough to start planning for it’s biggest projects early enough.

  • ds, spot on! These things work in cycles. And really the political climate (and passage of Measure R) dictated when the new projects could be advanced. We should remember all through the 80s, 90s and into this decade Metro reaped hundreds of millions of New Starts funds for the initial segments of the Red Line and the Gold Line eastiside extension. The folks in Metro’s Government Relations Dept. are expert in advocating for us, so I am confident in a few years we’ll again be getting our share. Albeit that depends on our friends in D.C. finally dealing with the Transportation Trust Funds long-term funding issues.

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