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Newsom offers $1 billion to complete ‘critical’ transit projects before 2028 Olympics

Workers clear debris while working on the subway tunnel project in downtown Los Angeles in 2017.
Workers clear debris while working on the subway tunnel project in downtown Los Angeles in 2017.
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

Southern California could see as much as $1 billion in state funds next year to ensure that “critical” transit projects get built in time for the 2028 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, according to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s latest spending plan.

Newsom’s announcement comes in the middle of a construction blitz by the Los Angeles County’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which is currently building a subway extension to the Westside, a light rail line in South Los Angeles and an underground connector linking multiple rail lines beneath downtown.

Each of those projects is part of Mayor Eric Garcetti’s “28 by ’28" plan — the effort to have Metro complete an array of transit projects before the Summer Games. Projects on that list would be eligible for grants distributed from the $1 billion, said Garin Casaleggio, deputy secretary for the California State Transportation Agency.

Although any transit agency in California would be eligible to apply for the money, “a case would need to be made on how the project was critical to delivery of the Olympics,” he said in an email.

Buoyed by an enormous budget surplus, Newsom is proposing an extra $11 billion for transportation in the next fiscal year, bringing the total to $29 billion. More than a third of the new money would go toward California’s bullet train, according to Newsom’s spending document.

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Under Newsom’s proposed budget, Metro and other transit agencies would also have an opportunity to apply for grants from $1 billion set aside by Newsom for “priority” transit projects — those that reduce greenhouse gases and achieve other state policy goals, Casaleggio said.

The nation’s largest higher education systems will get a major funding boost under the proposed state budget announced by Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Garcetti welcomed the governor’s announcement, saying in a statement that the money would help Los Angeles create “a greener, more livable city” for years to come.

Metro’s grueling construction schedule calls for the opening of five rail lines in the next decade, including a light rail line along Crenshaw Boulevard and a subway extension to the Veterans Affairs campus, located just west of the 405 Freeway.

The agency has been hoping to break ground early on four other projects: an Eastside light rail extension to Whittier; a South Bay light rail extension to Torrance; a 22-mile rail route connecting downtown Los Angeles with Artesia; and, perhaps most crucially, a transit line through the Sepulveda Pass linking the Westside with the San Fernando Valley.

To have a chance at completion by 2028, major construction on such projects would need to begin by 2023, said Phil Washington, Metro’s CEO.

Washington expressed gratitude for the governor’s revised budget, saying it would provide funding not only for rail transit but also for the electrification of buses and trucks and for construction of “active” transportation projects — infrastructure that serves bicyclists and pedestrians.

“While it is too early to speculate on which specific projects might benefit from the funding, Metro looks forward to working with the Legislature as they now begin their deliberations on the state budget,” he said in a statement.

The state Legislature has until June 15 to send Newsom a budget bill. The fiscal year begins July 1.


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