Senate Panel OKs $25 Million For Transit Hub : Transportation: Appropriation for key element of Disney resort is double what House panel voted but far below the $72 million sought for first-year funding.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Senate Appropriations Committee on Wednesday approved $25 million for a proposed $223-million parking structure and transportation center in Anaheim, a major piece of the Walt Disney Co.'s resort plans.

The project, called the Orange County Intermodal Transportation Center, is designed to help people use public transportation between locations such as Disneyland, Anaheim Stadium, the Anaheim Convention Center and the proposed Westcot resort.

Although money earmarked by the Senate is nearly double the $13 million approved in June by the House Appropriations Committee, it is still far below the $72 million transportation officials originally sought in first-year funding for the four-year project.

A final total will be hammered out within the next two weeks by the House-Senate Conference Committee.

To gain federal support for the project, the Orange County Transportation Authority repackaged what initially was just a parking structure into a transit facility with express bus service, rail connections and park-and-ride space.

Officials said Wednesday that they are confident that more federal money will be forthcoming in future budget years.

"It's certainly not disappointing to get funding," said Monte Ward, an OCTA director. "The federal government is making a down payment on a much larger project."

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a committee member who requested the funding, called the vote "a major commitment on the part of the federal government to become a partner in the project.

"This is the type of innovative, state-of-the-art project that can help make it convenient for people to leave their cars at home and use public transportation," Feinstein (D-Calif.) said in a prepared statement Wednesday.

The senator said it is her "sincere hope" that the higher level of funding approved by the Senate will be approved by the House-Senate Conference Committee, which must make a final decision by Oct. 21.

The project, which would be partly funded by OCTA, Anaheim and Disney, is part of a $318-million grant application that includes new connectors linking car-pool lanes on the Costa Mesa and San Diego freeways.

The proposed transportation center includes a seven-story parking structure on Clementine Street between Freedman Way and Katella Avenue. All parking revenue would go to other transportation projects.

The first floor of the structure would be reserved for commuters using elevated intra-county urban rail line, express buses or shuttles to Orange County-Los Angeles-Riverside commuter trains, and for park-and-ride spaces for ride sharers.

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