Nunez wants MTA chief ousted
Saying Southern California has been shortchanged on money for transportation projects, Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez called Thursday for the resignation of Roger Snoble as head of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
Nunez, a Democrat from Los Angeles, reacted angrily to a California Transportation Commission decision Thursday to provide five Southern California counties with $1.65 billion from a pot of more than $3 billion for projects aimed at improving the flow of goods through ports and along highways and rail lines.
The decision provides 56.5% of the funds to Southern California. Three dozen state legislators had asked that at least 70% of the money go to their region because it is home to the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, which combined handle 85% of the shipping cargo containers that move through California.
“Over this issue, Snoble should go,” Nunez said. “He screwed this thing up. He did so much damage to the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. This guy should step down.”
Nunez charged that Snoble agreed to a bad deal that shortchanged Los Angeles County early in the competition for funds and that the MTA’s chief executive officer failed to provide enough transportation projects ready to compete for the money.
Of the 53 projects submitted by the Southern California coalition, only one, a truck lane for Interstate 5, was nominated by the MTA. That project was not approved Thursday.
Snoble was on vacation Thursday, but MTA spokesman Marc Littman said the agreement on how the money should be distributed involved transportation executives from the counties of Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura.
“Roger is only one player,” Littman said. “There are five counties involved.”
Littman said Snoble fought for $2.2 billion for the region and will not give up as the Legislature considers upcoming budgets.
The MTA had supported several projects proposed by agencies involved with the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach and plans to make good use of any money it does get, the agency said in a statement.
“On the other hand, Metro is disappointed that the CTC did not award this region the full $2.2 billion we and our partners in five counties representing 18 million residents had requested as our fair share of goods-movement funding,” the statement said.
John Chalker, chairman of the state Transportation Commission, said the decision Thursday was based on the best projects to help the state.
“It will help with the goods movement and California’s economy enormously,” he predicted.
He said there could be further disappointment because the commission approved projects costing $3 billion in state funds although it only has about $2.4 billion in Proposition 1B and other funds in hand. Full funding is dependent on the state’s finding the other $600 million.
Nunez said he was involved in drafting the transportation bond measure approved by state voters in 2006 and that the intent was to provide the “vast majority” of goods-movement money to help the ports of Los Angeles, Long Beach and Oakland.
However, transportation agencies from San Diego, Stockton, Sacramento and other parts of the state demanded and received a share in the plan approved Thursday.
Projects to be funded include:
The replacement of the Gerald Desmond and Schuyler Heim bridges in the Los Angeles-Long Beach ports area.
Building a 2-mile trench for rail lines under several streets in the cities of Alhambra, San Gabriel and Rosemead so cars no longer have to stop for passing trains.
Providing 29 other grade-separation projects including lowering State College Boulevard, Placentia Avenue, Kraemer Boulevard and Valley View Avenue so cars can pass under the railroad tracks.
Widening parts of California 91and Interstate 15.The commission also endorsed a controversial plan pushed by the administration of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to spend $97 million of the bond funds to build a 1.4-mile railroad bridge that would address a bottleneck in Colton.
It would eliminate a crossing for Union Pacific and Burlington Northern trains.
Elected officials objected that the plan lacked benefits to the voters who approved the bonds.
“This is a subsidy to the rail companies and it’s just wrong,” Nunez said Thursday.