The Feds Endorse 30/10: A Breakthrough for Los Angeles

We may be seeing this line on the Metro Map sooner than anticipated.

The news is in. Barbera Boxer announced on Friday that the Federal Department of Transportation has endorsed Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s 30/10 plan to build all transit projects funded by Measure R at an accelerated pace using loans from the Federal Government. The first project to benefit from 30/10 will be the long awaited Westside Subway Extension. At the same news conference, Metro announced that the Environmental Impact Report will begin immediately for the entirety of the project. That means that the three to four phase construction plan may be off the table and the entire six miles from Wilshire/Western to Westwood may be built in one gigantic piece.

I am surprised that USDOT has come out in support of this plan with so few reservations. Never before has a region negotiated such an arrangement. Now for the details: 30/10 is a promise to complete Measure R projects more quickly than the flow of tax dollars coming in. Loans from the Federal Government with future Measure R sales tax revenues as collateral will fill the gap. This accelerated schedule means that most Measure R projects would be completed in 10 years instead of 30 (hence the name).

Projects most effected are those that are high on the priority list, especially the Crenshaw Corridor, Westside Subway Extension and Regional Connector. With 30/10 in effect, three or more tunnel boring machines could descend on Los Angeles in the near future to dig tunnels Downtown (Regional Connector), in Leimert Park (Crenshaw Corridor) and under Wilshire Boulevard (Westside Subway Extension). No metropolitan area in the United States has built so much new rail transit and so many new subway tunnels this quickly since the 1970’s for the Washington Metro. The scheduled completion dates for all of these three headline Measure R projects is now 2020 or earlier. Amazing.

With the plan on the table to spend all available sales tax revenue on projects before the 2030 expiration of Measure R, what will happen in Los Angeles after all of the 30/10 projects are built? This question has yet to be answered. Two other sales taxes, Measure A and Measure B, that are mostly used to subsidize transit operations, will expire soon also. Los Angeles must continue to push forward with new transit investment. Projects not included in Measure R include the Santa Monica/West Hollywood Subway Extension, upgrading the Metro Orange Line and El Monte Busway to Light or Heavy Rail, a South Vermont Avenue Subway, the Crenshaw Line north of Exposition Boulevard and countless other expensive but necessary transit expansion project. A ten year gap in construction is unacceptable. When Metro accepts funding for 30/10 it must also detail how it will continue to improve transit in Los Angeles without the billions of dollars from Measure R that will run out earlier than expected. Although politically unpopular, officials should announce a new source of revenue for transit expansion after 30/10 like a property tax, parking rate increases or tolls. Los Angeles cannot stop building transit until it has effectively increased the population traveling by transit to 10-15 percent, from the paltry 4-5 percent today. Imagine what LA could be like with 1 million less cars on the road. If Metro gets its act together, this fantasy could become reality in a mere 20-30 years.

For further reading on this topic, check out Yonah Freemark’s great post on 30/10 at the Transport Politic. Also, check out The Source, Metro’s in-house transportation blog.

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About Karl Tingwald

Civil engineering student at the University of Southern California with a severe transportation compulsion.

Posted on June 7, 2010, in Los Angeles, Measure R, Metro Rail, Westside Subway Extension and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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