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Congress Aids Transit Plans Big and Small

Times Staff Writer

Some of the projects are enormous, such as $400 million to help extend the Gold Line into East Los Angeles and $100 million to replace the Gerald Desmond Bridge at the Port of Los Angeles. Others are itty-bitty, such as installing crosswalk bumps near downtown, widening a Baldwin Park street and planting new traffic signals here and there in the San Fernando Valley.

But big or small, all of the 202 transportation projects in Los Angeles County that are to receive special funding from massive new federal legislation will help drivers, transit riders, pedestrians and bicyclists, officials said Wednesday.

“We had to do something to abate this congestion,” said Rep. Juanita Millender-McDonald (D-Carson) at a news conference at the 103rd Street Metro Blue Line light-rail station in Watts. “We brought home the bacon to you!”

L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa hailed the new funding as “great news.”

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“Transportation funding is sorely needed in the region with the worst congestion in America,” Villaraigosa said.

He credited Millender-McDonald, his onetime colleague in the California Legislature and currently a senior member of the House transportation committee, as one of the key players who helped negotiate the county’s share in the $286-billion funding bill.

Congress passed the bill last week, and it is expected to be signed by the president.

The legislation includes about $1 billion for the 202 special projects, out of a total $4.5 billion that Congress has allocated -- mainly from gasoline taxes -- to Los Angeles County’s various transportation systems over the next six years.

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Local and state officials have more discretion in determining how to spend the other $3.5 billion to reduce congestion, improve air quality and enhance landscapes and bikeways.

Some of the special projects already have gotten a lot of publicity, such as $130 million to build a northbound carpool lane along the notoriously congested 405 Freeway, north of the 10 Freeway through the Sepulveda Pass; and $2.4 million to study the feasibility of a tunnel under South Pasadena to extend the 710 Freeway.

The list includes a less well-known collection of smaller projects, such as: $3.2 million for landscaping in Watts, $300,000 to widen Maine Avenue in Baldwin Park, $400,000 for crosswalk bumps on Temple Street near downtown and $40,000 in improvements to bridges over the San Gabriel River in Bellflower. The 118 Freeway will receive $2.3 million for landscaping, and $800,000 will enhance trails in the Santa Monica Mountains Recreation Area.

However, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the county’s policymaking body for its transportation system, didn’t get everything it wanted.

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Though the MTA had hoped for hundreds of millions of dollars to widen the 5 Freeway north of the Orange County border, Congress earmarked only $4.1 million to help defray the project’s cost of $471 million. The project will be completed, officials said, but will be paid for with other local and state money that the MTA receives.


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