- Written by Ken Alpern
19 Jan 2012
ALPERN AT LARGE - Governor Brown’s State of the State address can be summarized in a few key bullet points: we’re in a world of hurt, painful (very painful!) cuts need to be made, the budget won’t be balanced without more revenue, and the need to scale back government needs to be weighed against public works projects that would provide jobs and infrastructure for the state to rebuild (LINK).
A host of other issues remain unaddressed (the role of corporate state residents, the fiscal impacts of illegal aliens, the lopsided number of welfare recipients in our state, pension reform, and other issues), and they might prevent the voters from approving more taxes, but it’s clear that the contrast of our state versus our local transportation planning is stark.
In particular, the concerns surrounding our bullet train appear to be: We spent a lot on planning, there might be a few glaring flaws about the estimated costs of the train as well as the road/freeway/airport alternatives, and yet it’s still necessary (LINK). The potential for conflicts of interest and bait and switch appear to be profound, if not fatal, for voters to continue pushing forward with this project.
On the other hand, the complaints that surround the Measure R projects appear to be mostly in the form of “they’re not enough, and the funding is coming in too slow”. Hence, we have the timely efforts of Assemblymember Mike Feuer to extend the revenue collecting timeframe for at least another ten years, and to legally expedite Measure R projects.
The purpose of Feuer’s legislative efforts is to ensure that the Measure R projects (which, unlike the California High Speed Rail Project, or CAHSR, enjoy a greater transparency and consensus than just about any major transportation effort in the nation) are built faster by using future tax collections as revenues against which to sell bonds, and to address cost overruns in our Measure R projects.
Unlike the CAHSR project, these cost overruns of the Measure R projects have yet to cause the intense voter acrimony against the governmental entity planning and constructing them (Metro). The engineering, legal, bureaucratic and other delays/fiscal problems have been vigorously confronted by Metro, and by the Expo and Gold Line Construction Authorities.
And with the opening of Phase One of the Expo Line to Culver City this year, the fruits of years of labor appear to be a tangible reality. Should that be a heavily-ridden line, it cannot help but promote more money and efforts to finishing the other Measure R projects sooner, and not later.
So what would, could or should an accelerated and/or extended Measure R do?
1) Expedite and even add to our local freeway widening/upgrading efforts: the I-405, I-605, SR-60, I-5 and a host of other freeway projects are moving forward but they can’t be finished fast enough. Furthermore, perhaps some more Measure R money would attract state and federal money to consider other projects, such as widening the I-5 from the 605 to the 710 freeways.
2) Add more money to street repairs, sidewalk repairs, bicycle lane creation, and other related public works
3) Make sure that the Expo Line Authority has necessary financial and legal cushions should engineering or lawsuit surprises potentially risk delaying this line, which is virtually a widening of the I-10 freeway capacity between Santa Monica, West L.A., Culver City, Mid-City and Downtown L.A. Phase 2 to Santa Monica efforts are moving rapidly, old structures and rail ties are being quickly removed, and a two-year opening delay that plagued Phase 1 to Culver City likely will not be repeated.
4) While many (including myself) believe it’s a good thing that Governor Brown abolished Community Redevelopment Agencies, there were a few good projects (such as the Foothill Gold Line railcar maintenance yard in Monrovia) that have been put in jeopardy. The Foothill Gold Line is to the I-210 freeway as the Expo Line is to the I-10 freeway, and both the maintenance yard and an extension of the light rail line as far east as possible is needed for funding from Metro.
5) The biggest flaw in the Green Line to LAX Project is the profound lack of funding that was assigned to it: $200 million is a nice but glaringly insufficient start, and additional funding is inevitable to make sure it’s elevated and trenched to please the FAA and Metro, to say nothing of the likelihood that Metro will need to work with LA World Airports to add to a connecting LAX People Mover to serve the Century Blvd. Corridor between the Crenshaw/Green Lines and the central airline terminals at LAX.
6) Any additional or expedited funding for the Downtown Light Rail Connector and Wilshire/Purple Line Extension Subways would be as critical to serve the Wilshire Blvd. and Downtown commercial cornerstones of L.A. County as is more funding for the aforementioned Green Line/Century Blvd./LAX rail projects to serve the LAX/Century Blvd. commercial corridor.
7) Finally, the option of reconsidering rail projects, both old and new, would and could and should be enabled by an expedited/expanded Measure R effort. In particular, the question of whether a southeast L.A. County rail line should be pursued, or shelved in favor of a revisitation of the eastern extension of the Green Line to proceed underground at Norwalk and connect with the Norwalk Metrolink station. Such a project would provide an important option for L.A., Orange and Riverside County commuters who have no choice but to use the SR-91 and I-105 freeways.
Sacramento and Washington are still sources of matching revenue, despite their fiscal miseries, but setting and underlying the tone for Measure R projects (which, unlike most projects are vetted and enjoy consensus) is something that state and federal politicians want to be part of as much as city/county elected leaders.
After all, the fiscal agonies of the early 21st Century are not mutually exclusive to the equally vital opportunities that the voters and taxpayers want to pursue as well.
Vol 10 Issue 6
Pub: Jan 19, 2012