$500 million in federal funds earmarked for L.A., Orange County transit projects

The Obama administration has earmarked $500 million for transit projects in Los Angeles and Orange County in the proposed federal budget for next fiscal year, local transportation officials said Tuesday.

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority could receive up to $125 million for each of three projects. They include two sections of the Westside subway extension and a connector through downtown Los Angeles that will link the region's light rail lines.

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"The federal funds that President Obama is recommending in his budget for Metro projects will keep thousands of individuals in Los Angeles County hard at work building and providing mobility to millions of local residents," said Phillip Washington, Metro's chief executive.

The regional connector and the first section of the Purple Line extension already have full funding agreements with the New Starts program of the Federal Transit Administration. Such a funding agreement has yet to be reached for the second section of the subway project.

The Orange County Transportation Authority is slated to get up to $125 million for a 4.1-mile street car project that would run from downtown Santa Ana to a new transit hub in Garden Grove.

Adding the streetcar to the budget signals a federal endorsement and puts the project on a path to obtain enough federal dollars to cover up to half its cost, according to the Orange County Transportation Authority.

Within the next two years, the transit administration will consider a grant agreement to finalize how much money the streetcar will receive from the New Starts program. The estimated cost of the project is $289 million.

"The OC streetcar has earned the support of the local businesses and residents of Santa Ana and Garden Grove," said Darrell Johnson, OCTA's  chief executive. "Now we are seeing officials at the federal level recognize what a strong transportation project this is."

Construction is scheduled to begin in late 2017 and be completed in 2020, when service is set to begin.

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