Los Angeles may vote on $120 billion transportation referendum
Ballot referendum would include dozen transit, roads projects throughout county
Officials with the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LA Metro) are preparing plans for major highway and transit projects that could transform the Los Angeles metropolitan area’s future.
LA Metro’s board is considering adding a proposal to the November election ballot seeking to raise the countywide sales tax by a half-cent and extend an existing tax for another two decades. The ballot measure, which would need a two-thirds majority to pass, could raise $100 billion to $120 billion, to be spent on transportation projects.
The agency is planning about a dozen major projects to be built with the revenue generated by the LA Metro transportation referendum. They include rail lines through the San Fernando Valley and southeastern Los Angeles County, faster bus service on a number of major corridors and, potentially, a tunnel bored through the mountains that would allow the 405 Freeway to connect the city’s Westside with the San Fernando Valley. The tunnel would serve a toll road and a passenger rail line.
Though the plan is not yet finalized and won’t be released officially until Friday, March 18, some details have emerged. It would devote about one-third of the $120 billion into funding five new transit lines and six extensions of existing lines.
“In terms of the order of these projects, what’s going to be at the beginning and what’s at the end, and how it’s all rolled out, that’s all being finalized,” said LA Metro’s chief communications officer, Pauletta Tonilas. “There’s been a tremendous amount of work that went into this, keeping in mind that this is a regional system for everyone in the county.”
The county’s voters have approved tax increases three times to pay for transportation projects, in 1980, 1990 and 2008. The funds from those increases have been used to build out Los Angeles’s Metro Rail network.
The centerpiece of this latest long-term transportation plan is the Sepulveda Pass tunnel, linking the San Fernando Valley and the Westside. Cost estimates range from $7 billion to $9.5 billion for a project meant to alleviate traffic on one of the nation’s most congested freeways, the 405. The project list, however, has been drawn up to appeal to the entire county, with construction and improvements planned for rail, buses, highways and major city corridors throughout the metropolitan area.
“What we’ve been saying is, everyone is going to get something, and no one is going to get everything,” Tonilas said. “And not everything can be built in the next 15 years.”
Among the other projects being considered for final inclusion are a $200 million station near the Los Angeles International Airport that would connect the Metro Rail’s Crenshaw Line, currently under construction, to a proposed monorail-like system that will carry passengers to their terminals. As well, the list includes two projects that would directly benefit residents of the San Fernando Valley, a bus or rail line along Van Nuys Boulevard and upgrades to the Orange Line bus line. The Valley is home to 20 percent of Los Angeles County’s residents.
The board will decide in June whether or not to place the LA Metro transportation referendum on the ballot.