March 10, 2005

Federal transit bill contains millions for South Bay projects
Remote terminals at LAX, road improvements and money to upgrade emergency equipment are included.

By Toby Eckert
Copley News Service

WASHINGTON -- The South Bay and Harbor Area would get a $50 million infusion for road and transit projects under a massive transportation bill the House is expected to approve today.

The projects -- part of a six-year, $284 billion plan -- include road improvements to relieve congestion, money for remote passenger terminals for Los Angeles International Airport and even $32,000 to upgrade equipment for emergency first responders in Culver City.

Lawmakers are typically allowed to insert such "earmarks" into the bill to help guarantee passage, though the practice is often controversial. Projects designated for California in the bill total more than $2.1 billion, more than any other state, according to an analysis by the nonpartisan California Institute for Federal Policy Research.

However, the analysis noted that the bill is just beginning its journey through Congress and that the amount of money for California is likely to decrease once the House and Senate reconcile differing versions of the legislation. The Senate has traditionally taken a dimmer view of designated projects.

The highest-dollar project locally involves $5 million in interchange improvements at the Harbor (110) Freeway, State Route 47 and Harbor Boulevard in San Pedro. Other major road projects include improvements to Douglas Street in El Segundo, $4 million; modifying the San Diego (405) Freeway interchange at Avalon Boulevard in Carson, $4 million; reducing congestion at the intersection of Inglewood and Marine avenues, $3.6 million; and a $2 million study of the Vincent Thomas Bridge to handle future cargo and passenger traffic at the Los Angeles-Long Beach ports complex.

Some beach projects would also get funding, including $2 million to improve beach access and accommodate more pedestrian traffic on The Strand in Manhattan Beach and $1 million for improvements to The Esplanade in Redondo Beach.

Major transit projects include a 9.6-mile extension of the Metro rail line, from Metro Center in downtown Los Angeles to Venice Boulevard in Culver City. The project would be designated as a "new start," making it eligible for part of $4.58 billion in funding designated for California transit projects.

A pilot project for a shuttle train from the ports to the Inland Empire would get $5 million over three years. Funding was also earmarked for the Torrance Transit System to purchase low-emission buses, $3 million; for Beach Cities Transit for 12 compressed natural gas vehicles, $800,000; and for a "remote flyaway facility" to serve LAX, $800,000.

Los Angeles World Airports, which manages LAX, has pledged to build a series of the remote terminals, where people can board buses to the airport to ease the traffic crunch around busy facility.

Groups that advocate tighter controls on federal spending have criticized the earmarks in the bill, particularly items like beach-related projects.

Daily Breeze staff writer Ian Gregor contributed to this article.