Feds Give L.A. $213 Million to Cut Traffic Congestion

LOS ANGELES, California, April 25, 2008 (ENS) – A plan to cut highway traffic jams and provide better bus transit services is eligible for more than $213 million in federal congestion reduction grants, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters said today during a visit to this car-dependent city.

The grant will allow local leaders to move forward with a plan to use proven transportation solutions like congestion pricing to improve southern California’s traffic, economy and air quality, she said.

“The concept is simple but the idea is bold, to make L.A. an easier place to live, a better place to do business and a cleaner place to raise a family,” Secretary Peters said. “We want this iconic American city to continue to be known for its epic Hollywood movies, not epic traffic jams.”

Peters announced the funding during a news conference with Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and California Secretary of Transportation Dale Bonner.

The California governor said, “Having the federal government as our partner on this important project is what makes today extra special. Because as we move forward – rebuilding our roads, levees, schools and other infrastructure – we are going to need Washington’s help.”

“This is just the beginning of what I hope is more federal funding for infrastructure projects coming California’s way,” Schwarzenegger said.

From left: Los Angeles Mayor Antonio
Villaraigosa, Governor Arnold
Schwarzenegger, California
Transportation Secretary Dale
Bonner, and U.S. Transportation
Secretary Mary Peters announce
the new federal grant today. (Photo
courtesy Office of Governor Schwarzenegger)

The $213 million awarded to California is part of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Urban Partnership Agreement, aimed at reducing urban congestion. These funds will allow the L.A. Metro to make a number of upgrades, including purchasing buses and improving park and ride lots and bus access.

Secretary Peters said the new federal funding would provide the leverage local leaders need to convert up to 85 miles of local HOV highway lanes into more reliable high occupancy toll, or HOT, lanes by the end of 2010.

These roads use electronic tolling technology to allow drivers to pay a fee for access to less-congested lanes. Sophisticated sensors will monitor the region’s freeways and adjust fares for the lanes based on traffic levels.

Peters said that being able to choose to avoid backups to experience faster commutes was “a better option than being stuck in traffic and staring at an open lane just to your left.”

The secretary said the federal funds would help finance new bus service to run on the HOT lanes. Experience and data show that HOT lanes lead to better traffic on other parallel highway lanes as well. As a result, commuters using any of the highways with HOT lanes will experience faster, more reliable trips.

She said that the money generated by the new HOT lane tolls would be available for investments in improved transit services throughout the region. “Even if you are one of the few folks who never use a highway, getting around town is still going to get easier with this plan,” said Peters.

The region has until October 15 to get the legislative authority needed to convert the existing HOV lanes into the new high occupancy toll lanes, the secretary said.

At the same time, Los Angeles will be buying up to 260 new high-capacity buses that run on cleaner-burning compressed natural gas.

The Board of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority Thursday approved the purchase of the new buses from North American Bus Industries. The total procurement is $170.9 million, including spare parts, diagnostic equipment and training.

Delivery of these buses will be completed by June 30, 2010. The new buses have 15 percent more capacity than standard 40-foot buses and they will replace the oldest 40-foot diesel and CNG buses in Metro’s fleet.

The Metro Board approved funding for this project in February 2008, from a combination of federal, state and local funds. Metro now has a fleet of 2,561 active buses, almost all of them fueled with compressed natural gas.

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