With growing confidence that the federal government will increase support for Metro Rail, Los Angeles County officials lobbied a House subcommittee Thursday for $190 million to propel construction of the system into the San Fernando Valley, East Los Angeles and the Mid-City area.
The proponents made their case one day after they learned that the Clinton Administration's budget proposal for the 1994 fiscal year requests $232 million for Metro Rail--substantially more than they are seeking.
"We have an Administration that is instinctively more sympathetic to urban areas than the Reagan or Bush Administrations were, which means that transit automatically goes up," said Franklin E. White, chief executive officer of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
Los Angeles officials said the higher funding level would bolster their case in Congress, which faces intense national competition for mass transit funds.
"That's a very pleasant surprise," Richard Alatorre, a Los Angeles city councilman and MTA chairman, said after appearing before the House Appropriations subcommittee on transportation. "We're going to fare well."
In his testimony, Alatorre emphasized that construction of Metro Rail is "creating thousands of jobs" in economically strapped Southern California and will "make significant air quality improvements" in the smoggiest region of the country. He was joined by spokesmen for the city's business community and an industry-labor-government coalition.
The $190-million request represents the most money Metro Rail sponsors have ever sought. Most don't expect to receive the full sum. One backer said that $130 million to $140 million would be considered a triumph. But the project's boosters were well-received.
"Given the enormous size of this project and its value, I don't think you'll have any problem getting the full support of this committee," Rep. Bob Carr (D-Mich.), chairman of the subcommittee, told the Metro Rail advocates.
Still, Carr pointed out that his committee had received $2 billion worth of requests for new rail projects in the next fiscal year, and he expected the figure to top $3 billion. That contrasts with $721 million appropriated for this fiscal year. The Administration has asked for about $650 million for the 1994 fiscal year.
The money sought for Metro Rail includes $70 million to complete construction of the second segment of the Metro Red Line and $120 million to be divided evenly among three extensions that comprise the third segment.
The second segment consists of two branches, one under Wilshire Boulevard from Alvarado Street to Western Avenue and the other north under Vermont Avenue and west beneath Hollywood Boulevard to Vine Street. It has been budgeted at $1.446 billion.
The three extensions for the third segment go from Hollywood and Vine to Lankershim and Chandler boulevards in North Hollywood; west from the Mid-City district to Pico and San Vicente boulevards, and east from Union Station into East Los Angeles. The North Hollywood leg is budgeted at $1.31 billion, the Eastside leg at $684.6 million and the Westside leg at $574.7 million.
The second 6.7-mile segment is scheduled to open later this year and the third by 2001.
As they have in recent years, Metro Rail supporters showed a united front Thursday. Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a Senate Appropriations Committee member, led a chorus of California lawmakers that included Democratic Reps. Julian C. Dixon and Lucille Allard-Roybal of Los Angeles and Republican Reps. Jerry Lewis of Redlands and David Dreier of LaVerne.
Although Clinton's 1994 budget was released early last month, only this week did Department of Transportation officials provide detailed breakdowns of the amount it includes for specific mass transit projects. The Metro Rail figures were $69.27 million to finish the second segment and $163 million for segment three.
Los Angeles transit officials also requested $18 million in the next fiscal year for the Gateway project at Union Station, heralded as a urban regional transit hub. The facility is intended to be a combination of corporate offices and a nexus of rail, subway, Amtrak, bus, taxi and car-pool services.
The federal government appropriated $12.75 million for that project for this fiscal year. It is a joint undertaking of the MTA and the Catellus Development Corp.