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What Is a “Call for Projects” and Why Is the City Gearing Up for It?

Thanks to the 2009 Call to Projects, the Figueroa Corridor could be getting a Bikestation.  Photo:
Thanks to the 2009 Call to Projects, the Figueroa Corridor could be getting a Bikestation. Photo:

Today's City Council Transportation Committee Hearing has a couple of big-ticket items sure to earn ink.  A proposal to increase the city's allotment of spaces for car-sharing has already been covered in LAist.  A second motion asking LAPD and LADOT to make certain that the President can't shut down the Westside next time he needs to raise some money is even more press friendly.  But a one-page motion by Bill Rosendahl and Tom LaBonge represents a small step in changing the way the city plans its transportation projects, and will almost assuredly earn little press outside of Streetsblog.

Advocates have long complained that the City of Los Angeles seems to constantly be behind the game when it comes to progressive planning and applying for state and federal funds to make these projects a reality.  However, Council Members Rosendahl and LaBonge are trying to get the city ready for the 2011 Metro Call for Projects early by instructing LADOT to reach out to City Council offices to prepare a local project list.

The Call is expected to happen next month, so it's not as though the City is getting a huge jump.  But the directive to involve the Council office could mean that the City's project list won't be the same one submitted in 2009, a practice that's become too common with Safe Routes to School and other grant-based application proceses.  After all, the entire process takes six months, from call to funding, so a month head start is actually a decent lead.

But first thing's first.  Metro defines the Call for Projects as "a competitive process that distributes discretionary capital transportation funds to regionally significant projects."  Basically,  the various taxes and transportation fees collected at the county and state level have a set aside for local projects, and Metro is in charge of distributing those funds throughout L.A. County.  Thus, every two years Metro goes through this process of having a call where local governments apply for these funds.  Applicants are cities, Neighborhood Councils, other government bodies such as the CRA and even the county itself.  Every project has to fit into one of seven categories: Regional Surface Transportation Improvements, Signal Synchronization and Bus Speed Improvements, Transportation Demand Management, Bikeway Improvements, Pedestrian Improvements, Transit Capital and Transportation Enhancements.  In 2009, Bikeway and Pedestrian Improvements made up about 12% of the entire call.

Unlike other grant processeses, LADOT actually has a decent track record in bringing back Call for Projects funds.  When the city is attacking the merit-based Safe Routes to School allocation system, it points to its success getting Call for Projects funding.  So the good news is that if the city starts working early with local staff, we may see more enlightened projects than the widenings that make up over half of the City's request from 2009.  The bad news is that the 2009 Call was $337 million.  The 2011 call is expected to be between $100 million and $120 million.

In this case, the LADOT and Council Offices aren't the only players in the process.  An April story by the planning blog Tribuni Plebis encourages Neighborhood Councils to get involved in the Call and to put together some projects on their own.  As they note, the process from "Call" to allocation takes about six months and is mostly in the hands of the Metro Staff.

For more on the Call for Projects, read Metro's page devoted to the Call, including information on how to prepare an application.

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