South Bay Leaders Decry Metro Plan to Close Project Funding Gap

They say Metro’s proposal to fund the Crenshaw-LAX light-rail line could divert nearly $100 million from their own highway and roads projects.

By Christine Mai-Duc

10:17 PM PDT, June 26, 2013

As the Metropolitan Transportation Authority prepares to take up a long agenda Thursday that could determine how billions of dollars are spent on projects countywide, city leaders in the South Bay are focused on a proposal they say could divert nearly $100 million from their own highway and roads projects.

The plan aims to close a $160-million funding gap on Metro’s Crenshaw-LAX light-rail line. But South Bay officials say it comes at the expense of millions promised to South Bay voters in 2008, when Los Angeles County voters passed Measure R, the county’s half-cent sales tax.

“This is not keeping the faith of the voters,” said Jacki Bacharach, executive director of the South Bay Cities Council of Governments.

Measure R outlined billions of dollars on transit spending in other parts of the county, but the South Bay lacked any big-ticket rail projects. Instead, Bacharach said, the region was promised $906 million over 30 years to pay for more basic road and highway projects.

In a report released two weeks ago, Metro staff justified siphoning some of those funds by citing a policy that says cost overruns should be shouldered by the geographic regions that stand to benefit most from a particular project.

That’s when leaders discovered that Metro had shifted the traditional boundaries of the South Bay by lumping in Los Angeles International Airport, Bacharach said. The change, which she said was made “quietly and without input” in 2009, put about 59% of the Crenshaw project in the South Bay.

Metro officials declined to comment.

The attempt to divert nearly $95 million of those funds could affect basic road construction in South Bay cities, where planners have begun to budget for improvements, officials say. Hermosa Beach, for instance, is planning traffic improvements along Pacific Coast Highway to make it safer for pedestrians.

“We’ve been working for years to address safety issues there,” City Manager Tom Bakaly said.

Hermosa Beach joined about a dozen South Bay cities Tuesday in passing a resolution opposing the Metro staff recommendation.

Sensing the building outrage, several Metro board members plan to put forth a separate proposal that would fund the Crenshaw line’s shortfall through funds or bonds from Proposition C, another half-cent sales tax passed by county voters in 1990, leaving Measure R projects intact.

“We must consider all alternatives to keep projects whole as envisioned under Measure R and as approved by the voters,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe, a Metro board member, whose district includes the South Bay. “Maintaining a level playing field is only fair to the South Bay and to all areas of the county.”

Crenshaw Line

The Crenshaw Line project falls partially within a small part of Metro’s definition of the South Bay sub-region:

Source: Metro

Los Angeles Times

Even if Knabe’s alternative addresses the immediate funding question, South Bay officials said they could still lose out on additional funds as other Metro strategies are put in place. For example, they complain that Metro’s attempt to fast-track funding for projects countywide could hurt small cities that lack the staff to complete projects right away.

“It’s like sitting someone down at a buffet and telling them to eat enough for the next three weeks,” Redondo Beach Councilman Pat Aust said.

Local officials are also wary that the boundary changes could leave them on the hook for all cost overruns on the airport’s Metro connector.

Many are concerned that efforts to deal with additional costs on the massive Crenshaw-LAX project could set a precedent for raiding other projects in the future.

“Nobody wants to delay that project,” said Stephen Lantz, a transportation consultant to the South Bay Cities Council of Governments. “But when the problem is being solved on the backs of other existing projects, it’s not right.”

christine.maiduc@latimes.com

Copyright © 2013, Los Angeles Times

 

The Metro Board of Directors, at its June 27, 2013 meeting, approved five key items with provisions that will benefit the South Bay.  The South Bay cities and chambers worked with the South Bay Cities Council of Governments and its key Metro Board members to achieve significant changes in the initial Metro staff proposals through a combination of resolutions, letters, media stories, and Board Motions.  

The Metro Board acted to:

 – Award the Crenshaw / LAX Transit Corridor Design-Build Contract

 – Use Unobligated funds to cover regional project funding shortfalls –  Rather than cannibalize funding from Sub-Regional Equity projects, including more than $94 million from the South Bay Highway Program and LAX-Metro Connector projects to help fund a $160 million budget shortfall on the Crenshaw project, the Board approved using $381 million in unobligated Proposition C 25% funds and authorized, if necessary, issuing bonds secured by these funds to cover the shortfall for the Crenshaw project and several other current Metro projects around the county with shortfalls.
 
 – Accelerate key Measure R Projects – The Metro Board approved an Amendment to the Measure R Ordinance and Expenditure Plan to advance “Funds Available Beginning” dates for transit corridor projects to potentially construct the Green Line South extension to South Bay Galleria by 2020 rather than 2035 and to construct the LAX-Metro Connector project by 2020 rather than 2027.  The approval of the Amendment is only the first step of a complex plan that requires federal grants and loans before the countywide acceleration of Measure R, Proposition A and Proposition C funding will be committed.

 – Allow highway projects to “opt out” of acceleration – South Bay cities expressed strong concern over their ability to deliver 30 years of highway projects by 2023. The Metro Board action protects the $1.5 billion commitment to South Bay Ramp and Interchange Improvements made by the Board to the South Bay following voter approval of Measure R in 2008. The original $906 million Measure R commitment (in 2008 dollars) is projected to escalate to $1.512 billion over the 30-year-life of Measure R.
Retain Contingency Funding in the Measure R Highway Program – The Board also approved retaining the Highway Subfund contingency line item balance.  The South Bay Highway Program could claim up to 17% share of the Highway Program Contingency line item, if needed.

 – Allow Contingency to be included in Subfund Transfers – Measure R allows funds to be transferred between the Highway and Transit Subfunds once a decade beginning in 2019. This would allow the South Bay to use its highway funds on transit projects, and vice versa. If a transfer is approved, the proportionate share of Subfund Contingency funding would also be transferred.

 – Protect Sub-Regions from future Proposition C 25% funding and borrowing – The Board approved the following provision that provides protection for the South Bay Highway Program’s Proposition C 25% funding –  “Proposition C 25% funding or borrowing (shall) be planned in a manner that does not impact the schedule and scope of work funded in the LRTP in… the South Bay.”  

For more information contact Steve Lantz at lantzsh10@gmail.com