LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority on Monday released the final environmental impact report for the nine-mile Westside Subway extension project estimated to cost between $5.6 billion and $6.2 billion.
The Metro board will make final decisions about the project at its April 26 board meeting.
The completion of the final EIR document marks a crucial milestone in Metro’s efforts to extend the line from Hollywood to the city’s Westside, as it will help secure federal funding as the project moves into its design phase, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who is also Metro board chair, said in a statement.
The Westside Subway project would connect Westwood to the Red Line that runs from Hollywood to downtown Los Angeles. It is the most costly of the $15.2 billion in projects planned by Metro, which also includes a downtown regional connector and expansion of transit lines in the San Fernando and San Gabriel valleys.
After Metro’s board approves the EIR and the study gets a record of decision from the Federal Transit Administration, the project can enter the final design phase. Metro hopes to break ground by 2013.
Metro staff have proposed two construction schedules. One proposal is based on all the funding elements of the mayor’s accelerated plan to build 30 years worth of projects in 10 years, called America Fast Forward, and another follows the agency’s 30-year long range plan to its natural conclusion.
The $109 billion transportation bill passed by the U.S. Senate last week contains funding for a low-interest loan program that would help speed completion of the 12 rail projects proposed by the agency. The bill still has to pass the House and may not come to a vote there.
If all sources of funding fall into place to achieve the mayor’s accelerated 10-year timeline, the entire line could be completed by 2022. If not, the line would be constructed in three phases, with the first section completed by 2022 and the final phase in 2036.
The cost for the speedier plan is estimated at $5.66 billion dollars, while the three-phased plan would cost $6.29 billion.
If Congress puts all the pieces in place, Metro expects to be first in line at the U.S. Department of Transportation’s door. It is seeking $3 billion in loans, which would be repaid from a half-cent sales tax. The loans, however, will not be enough to fund all the projects.
Metro hoped to fund $5.8 billion of the total long-range plan’s cost using a new class of qualified tax-credit bonds called qualified transportation improvement bonds. Legislation establishing those bonds is stuck in the House and was not included in the Senate’s recent bill.
The proposed bonds, issued by state or local issuers, would be taxable, and the federal government would subsidize most or all of the interest costs by granting investors annual tax credits in lieu of interest.
Alternatively, Metro hopes to extend Measure R, a half-cent sales tax, beyond its 2039 expiration date. California Assemblyman Mike Feuer, D-L.A., introduced legislation in February that would place the proposal, which has an as-yet-undefined expiration date, on the county’s November ballot. It would require a two-thirds majority to pass.
President Obama set aside $50 million for the Westside extension and $31 million for the regional connector in his budget. But Congress still needs to approve the appropriations.