Anaheim to Seek Freeway Funds Again : Transportation: City will ask for $25 million from Congress while making it clear that improvements aren’t meant to solely benefit Disneyland.
Still reeling from its unsuccessful bid for $175 million in federal transportation funds, the city now plans to ask for $25 million for improvements to the Santa Ana Freeway that would improve access to the city’s attractions.
City officials said Friday that the money is needed for car-pool lanes and ramps from the Santa Ana Freeway and is not solely intended to boost the fortunes of Disneyland.
“We have assured the (House Public Works and Transportation) committee that this is for a totally public purpose,” said Del Smith, the city’s lobbyist in Washington. “The Interstate 5 stuff is very, very basic. We have raised hell and asked the committee to fund the HOV (high-occupancy vehicle) lanes.”
Smith and other city officials have said that it was confusion over Disney’s competing request to the same House committee for $395 million two weeks ago that was responsible for killing Anaheim’s original attempt to win support to finance the development of an inner-city rail system and regional transportation center connecting various rail systems that would run inside and outside the city.
House leaders July 25 decided against funding both the Disney and Anaheim proposals because, they said, they could not determine whether Congress should spend public money on projects that could benefit a private business.
In Disney’s request, the company asked for public money to build two massive parking structures, special freeway ramps and a “people-mover” system that would aid in the development of Disney’s proposed $3-billion expansion in Anaheim.
Smith said the more modest Anaheim request will be offered next month as an amendment to a list of projects that was included in a five-year transportation bill.
The lanes and ramps in Anaheim’s new request would be for critical sections of the Santa Ana Freeway that run through the city’s Commercial/Recreation Zone, which includes Disneyland and also hotels and the Convention Center. However, Smith said: “There is no connection between the Disney request and the municipality of Anaheim.
“That Disney request screwed us up,” the lobbyist said. “It confused everybody and turned into a lack of appreciation for Disney’s aggressiveness.”
Disney Development Co. officials in Burbank could not be reached for comment Friday. Company executives have said, however, that they will continue to push for funding for the projects.
Since the House committee made its decision two weeks ago, Smith said, he has spent his time trying to separate the city’s second attempt from Disney’s in people’s minds and attempting to persuade House members that the new funding request addresses a public need.
“The committee members have been sensitized and warned,” Smith said.
In addition, Anaheim Mayor Fred Hunter has urged in a letter to the committee that new consideration be given to the city’s funding requests. Hunter has said the entertainment company should have allowed the city to handle the bid for transportation improvements.
Smith said he warned city officials months ago that there could be trouble with the competing requests by Disney and the city. He said other city officials were “aggressive” in explaining the situation to Disney.
“I said, ‘Let’s make sure Disney doesn’t hurt us,’ ” Smith said, explaining the warning he gave to city officials. “Indeed they (Disney officials) were aggressive, and indeed it hurt Anaheim. It also made it extremely difficult for me.”