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President Obama’s Proposed FY15-16 Budget: $330M for L.A. Subways

Today's announcement means that Angelenos should be able to ride the Wilshire Subway to La Cienega in 2023. Image: Metro website
The presidential budget proposal gives a boost to relatively-timely construction of the Metro Purple Line into Beverly Hills and Century City. Image: Metro website
Today's announcement means that Angelenos should be able to ride the Wilshire Subway to La Cienega in 2023. Image: Metro website

U.S. President Barack Obama released his administration's proposed FY 2015-16 budget which includes $330 million in New Starts funding planned for subways in Los Angeles:

    • $115 million for the Regional Connector
    • $115 million for Phase I of the Westside Subway Extension (Purple Line from Western to La Cienega)
    • $100 million for Phase II of the Westside Subway Extension (Purple Line from La Cienega to Avenue of the Stars)

The Regional Connector and Purple Line Phase I monies are more-or-less expected, as part of the federal government generally committing to finish construction projects already underway. The Regional Connector broke ground in October 2014, and is anticipated to be completed in 2020. The Purple Line extension Phase I broke ground in November 2014, and is anticipated to be completed in 2023.

The big news is $100 million for Phase II of the Purple Line. According to Metro's most recent (late 2014) project fact sheet [PDF], the 2.6-mile Westside Subway Extension Phase II was expected to begin construction in 2019 and be completed in 2026. The extension will add two new stations: Rodeo/Wilshire in Beverly Hills and Avenue of the Stars in Century City. The fact sheet lists pre-construction activities taking place from 2017-2018. It is unclear whether the federal funding might move up this schedule.

 

Final passage of the president's proposal is anticipated, but no sure thing in a congress that can be obstructionist. 

The $330 million is way up from $200 million in last year's federal budget. Metro provided this graph showing the unprecedented uptick in federal New Starts funding going to Southern California.

New Starts funding graphic via Metro [PDF]
New Starts funding graphic via Metro [PDF]
New Starts funding graphic via Metro [PDF]

An internal Metro legislative update memo also notes that the presidential 2015-16 budget includes an infrastructure bank program called America Fast Forward Bonds. From Metro:

President Obama’s Fiscal Year 2016 budget recommends a host of innovative transportation financing initiatives, including an America Fast Forward bond proposal. The President’s America Fast Forward Bonds proposal is similar, but not identical, to our own agency’s America Fast Forward Transportation Bond initiative [...]. Specifically, the Obama Administration’s America Fast Forward bond proposal has a reduced rate of interest subsidy, which makes them much like the Build America Bond program that was initially authorized under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Additionally, the President is recommending an expansion of Private Activity Bonds as well as his recently announced Qualified Public Infrastructure Bonds aimed at attracting more interest in developing Public/Private Partnerships.

Metro welcomes the inclusion of these innovative financial ideas in the Fiscal Year 2016 Budget released today. We look forward to working with the White House and Congress during the 114thCongress to advance innovative financing tools for transportation, just as we successfully worked to bolster the TIFIA loan program ultimately included in the current surface transportation bill, MAP-21. Consistent with our Board-approved Federal Legislative Program for 2015, we will work with the Obama Administration, members of our Los Angeles County Congressional Delegation and other House and Senate leaders to embed our America Fast Forward Transportation Bond program into any final tax reform or surface transportation authorization bill adopted by Congress this year.

For more on today's transportation budget announcement, see The Source and Mayor Garcetti's press release.

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