Metro Board Wrap: If Measure R Projections Are Down, What Happens to Projects When Funds Run Out?

During today’s debate over whether or not to approve a “life of the project” budget for Phase II of the Expo Line, County Supervisor Gloria Molina used the occasion to quiz Metro staff on new projections for Measure R revenue.  Originally, the half-cent county-wide sales tax was projected to produce $40 billion in revenue over thirty years.  However, in large part due to the Great Recession and high local unemployment rates, that projection has dropped 10% in two and a half years to $36 billion.

Molina takes a ride on the Gold Line Eastside Extension

So if the sales tax is coming in 10% lower than originally projected, then what happens to projects when Measure R funds run out.  As Metro rushes ahead with “the 30/10 Initiative” many of those sales tax dollars coming in later years, closer to 2040 than today, would likely be used up when it’s time to construct projects at the tail end of the program?  Metro staff didn’t really have a good answer, and neither does the Measure R Expenditure Plan nor the authorizing legislation.

If Congress and the President move to make 30/10, or Fast Forward America, a reality then the projects funded on the back-end would be highway capacity expansion projects.  Over $6.3 billion in Measure R funds are designated towards highway projects that have no timeline to begin, much less complete, construction.  Included in that list is the highly controversial “710 Gap Closure,” a favorite project of Molina.

If no action is taken to accelerate transit projects, the last transit projects to be funded are the Westside Subway Extension and the Green Line Extension down to the South Bay Corridor.  The total Measure R cost of these two projects is over $5 billion with $4.074 billion going towards the Subway.  There is some irony that the project that would be most endangered would be the Westside Subway, which was the center piece of the campaign to get Measure R passed in the first place.

Other notes from the Board Meeting:

  • The Metro Board did pass a the budget for Phase II of the Expo Line.  Following this week’s court victory, the Construction Authority can move forward with selecting a contractor.  The budget does not include the Bike Path, which is both still under litigation and will be built by LADOT.
  • Staff presented a plan to create a cost-estimate for the I-710 Tunnel Project in response to the request by Glendale Mayor Ara Najarian.  The proposal would have based the estimate off the expected cost of a different tunnel being built near Seattle.  Najarian was unhappy with the plan and blasted staff for proposing it.  He also wondered where the $3 billion estimate being used in the “710 conversations” came from and why Metro’s cost estimates assume the tunnel will be 2,100 feet and not 2,800.  The length of the tunnel will be between those two points.  More on this, tomorrow.
  • There was an update on the TAP Program.  Not much is new since last week’s Streetsblog article on the same topic. Although staff did estimate that the problems that they’re having divvying up the “cash purse” between participating agencies should be resolved by the summer.
  • There was a motion for a wide-ranging study of how Metro can continue to green their operations.  A full report will come back in the May Board Meeting.
  • Correction: Metro’s cost estimates assume the tunnel will be 21,000 feet and not 28,000

  • Correction: the 710 tunnel will be between 21,000 and 28,000 feet.

    Also, these cost estimates assume that the cost per tunnel mile (for a wider tunnel) will be roughly 50% of the cost estimates in Seattle. The 3 page report makes some references to scale efficiencies, but such a large variation is not justified. Najarian is right to be skeptical of the cost estimates.

  • Erik G.

    Does Ms. Molina ride the Ed Roybal line much these days?

  • ds

    Was the Westside extension really the centerpiece of the Measure R campaign?

    I’m sure it was, on the West Side. The ads that were shown countywide showed various highway and transit projects, and didn’t emphasize the subway.

    The Westside subway is going to end up getting frontloaded, because unlike a lot of other projects in Measure R it’s competitive enough to receive federal New Starts grants.

    It makes sense to always have a project in the New Starts pipeline. Even LA county isn’t stupid enough to turn down billions in federal money.

  • ds

    … Well, except when we passed that ridiculous tunneling ban in the 90s. But at that point Metro really was broke, and the issue wasn’t about shifting around sales tax revenue.

  • LAofAnaheim

    Why is the subway the last project? I thought the 405 mass transit line was the last transit line…it doesn’t even have an AA happening yet! The subway is the furthest along. Also, to clarify, Measure R allocated $4.1 billion to the Westside subway. If Metro receives New Starts grants (which it will most likely), it won’t need $4.1 billion to get to Westwood. Because, remember, Metro is going after New Starts funding for the Westside subway AND the Regional Connector (Metro only allocated $160 million for the Connector in Measure R…where does the rest of the money come from?). The subway wouldn’t be the most impacted by this dilemma. It would be the 405 line and the West Santa Ana branch corridor. Those projects are expected to open up last.

  • LAA,

    I was looking at what projects were receiving funding in 2039-2040 If we run out of Measure R dollars, we’ll be out before the funding for the Subway is completed.

    The 405 project is actually scheduled to be completed first.

  • ds

    @LAofAnaheim

    The regional connector is only getting $160 million Measure R money, but it’s also getting the Prop A&C money that was originally supposed to go to Expo, before Expo became a Measure R-funded project. New Starts is only going to cover 50% of the construction costs.

    @Damien

    My understanding is that that is the timeline ABSENT New Starts funds, and that with New Starts funding the subway will be completed much sooner than that. That’s what Metro officials have said.

    Basically what happened is that the Westside muscled in full funding for the subway into Measure R, but knowing that a New Starts grant was likely, much of that funding was backloaded.

  • 405 HOV is 1st, 405 Transit last

    Check again:

    405 HOV lane is 1st, 405 transit project is last

  • Erik G.

    405 HOV was already underway pre-Measure R.

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