SACRAMENTO – Efforts to relieve congestion on the 405 Freeway got a boost Tuesday when a host of local and state officials – including Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa – pressured a state commission to fund a badly needed car-pool-lane project. The California Transportation Commission’s staff had recommended last week that the lane for high-occupancy vehicles not receive any funding this year from a new series of state infrastructure bonds. But the recommendation ignited a firestorm of criticism and lobbying, and after hearing concerns from a range of elected officials, several commission members said Tuesday they are inclined to overturn their own staff’s advice and move the project forward. “My view is that more money should be spent in Los Angeles County and in the San Francisco Bay area,” said Commissioner Jeremiah Hallisey. The commission Tuesday heard the pleas of local transportation agencies from throughout the state, all wanting more funding for a wide range of projects. Schwarzenegger, who appoints the commission members, is seeking to secure funds for 10 projects that did not make the staff cut. The 405 car-pool lane topped his list. “There are significant projects omitted from the CTC staff’s list of projects recommended for funding that I believe should be reconsidered,” Schwarzenegger wrote in a letter to the commission. “Funding the (congestion relief) program at the full $4.5 billion level is essential to meeting California’s transportation needs and providing local agencies with the certainty necessary to move forward in the development of their projects.” Assembly Speaker Fabian Nu ez, D-Los Angeles, also called for supporting the project. Ultimately the CTC’s proposal must get legislative approval. At a public hearing, Villaraigosa lobbied the commission to provide $730 million to build a northbound car-pool lane on the 405 between the 10 and 101 freeways. “We were very concerned and very chagrined that the staff did not recommend this project,” Villaraigosa said. Los Angeles County had hoped to get at least $1.5 billion in allocations from the bond measure, but instead CTC staffers recommended $327 million. Also speaking at the hearing were U.S. Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Sherman Oaks; Los Angeles County Supervisor Gloria Molina; and Assemblyman Mike Feuer, D-Los Angeles. Sherman said if the project is not funded now, it could jeopardize $130 million in federal funding that he and Rep. Howard Berman helped secure. [email protected] (916) 446-6723160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! “I intend to support funding for the 405 and other projects in Los Angeles County.” Several members echoed that view, and none immediately dissented. The final outcome, however, will not be known until the nine-member commission officially votes at a meeting in Orange County next week. The vote will be the first allocation of funding from a $19.9 billion transportation bond measure that statewide voters approved last November. This first allocation is for a $4.5 billion portion targeting congestion relief, but the commission’s staff recommended funding only $2.8 billion in projects, omitting the 405 Freeway and many others.
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