Alameda Corridor-East Construction Authority
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San Gabriel Valley Tribune/Pasadena Star News
May 12, 2012

Our View: Keep ACE funds in Measure R

WHEN Los Angeles County's Measure R proposed raising the regional sales tax by half a percentage point to fund transit projects, we had reservations for two good reasons: Sales taxes, as noted Thursday, are a lousy way to raise government money on the backs of the poor, and the San Gabriel Valley and Whittier regions were almost certain to get schnookered by city of Los Angeles sharpies.

Los Angeles transit movers and shakers have long had it in for the Gold Line, for instance, seeing our part of the region as some kind of suburbia with little need for light rail. Zev Yarovslasky and Antonio Villaraigosa have most likely never been on the Foothill (210) Freeway going eastbound on a Friday at 3 p.m. Or, rather, not going eastbound - sitting in gridlock that absolutely rivals the 405's.

But the sales tax passed, and strong-arming by some San Gabriel Valley officials has ensured that in fact the millions of us who pay the tax the same as Westsiders do get our share of benefits. The tax may well help the Gold Line reach our local goal of expansion to Claremont, Upland and the Ontario Airport sooner rather than later.

But we have expressed our reservations about the odd push to fast-track a Measure R extension deeper into the future than the 30 years county residents voted for. How do we know now what spending priorities will be decades down the line?

If that extension is passed, however, we agree with local congressional representatives Adam Schiff, Judy Chu, Grace Napolitano and Linda Sanchez: the equally important Alameda Corridor-East project, which is undergrounding freight train tracks through the San Gabriel Valley, needs to continue to be funded as a regional transit priority.

Proponents of making the sales-tax hike essentially permanent say that the move would speed up what we agree are crucial transit projects in Southern California. And those projects are all interconnected - we are not a parochial people, and we all want mass-transit access from the mountains to the beaches. But there is once again the danger of Los Angeles getting unfair priority for the Subway to the Sea and other projects in favor of looking at the big picture. The Alameda Corridor-East was guaranteed $200 million in funding through the original Measure R. It must continue to be a priority for funding, especially in light of a dysfunctional Congress that has not passed federal highway authorization legislation.

State funding for the Alameda Corridor-East has continued to be strong, but the federal gap is worrisome. In addition, it now appears that a fee that was anticipated to come from cargo containers is unlikely to occur.

In a letter written Thursday to Villaraigosa, the Metro chairman, and his board, the local representatives wrote: "Completing all projects identified in Measure R through an equitable, county-wide strategy that aggressively seeks federal funds and reflects the Measure R mandated projects would be a critical step toward achieving a truly regional transportation system."

Freight trains aren't as sexy as subways. But when they run at street level, they play havoc with east Los Angeles County commutes, and funding the Alameda Corridor-East must remain a priority.