President’s Budget: $50 Million for Westside Subway, $31 Million for Regional Connector
While Metro has a dozen transit projects under construction or in the works, two have always stood out for the attention they attract. The Westside Subway has always been the jewel of the transit agency’s plans, capturing the imagination of the transit starved city. But, it was the Regional Connector, the Downtown light rail project that will unite them all that has been viewed by many as the most important of these projects.
Each of these projects shined bright enough to capture the attention of the budget makers in the Obama White House. As part of the President’s planned $476 billion investment in transportation over the next ten years, $81 million of it is planned for the two transit projects. The Westside Subway earned a $50 million federal allocation while the Regional Connector earned the rest of the $31 million. This doesn’t mean that it is the maximum that the projects can receive but the base point. The funds come from the federal “New Starts” program.
Of course, all of this assumes the president’s budget passes in the first place.
Locally, Metro officials are presenting the allocation as a big win for the agency. In a press release posted at The Source, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is quoted with praise for the President and a challenge to the House of Representatives and Senate:
“President Obama’s proposed budget makes it more likely than ever that shovels could soon break ground on these transit improvements that will greatly expand connectivity throughout theL.A.region,” said Mayor Villaraigosa, who also serves as Metro Board Chair. “The President has come through forLos AngelesCounty. Now it’s Congress’ turn: the House and Senate should pass the New Starts transit funding in the President’s budget so we can put people back to work.”
The inclusion of these funds in the budget isn’t a surprise to those watching the projects. One year ago, Secretary Ray LaHood announced ten transportation projects that were at the top of the administration’s priority list and it included both the Regional Connector and the Westside Subway. While both the Mayor and Secretary refused to directly comment on the budget at last week’s joint press event, the Mayor did offer his trademark smile with a guarantee that, “trust me, you’re going to like it.”