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Will President Barack Obama Be Duped Into Backing Subway To Sea? Antonio Villaraigosa's in D.C., Again, Seeking Money

Will President Barack Obama ask Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa about a recent Metropolitan Transportation Authority environmental impact report at a face-to-face meeting at the White House today? The one that showed Villaraigosa's legacy project, Subway to the Sea, will get less than 1 percent of L.A. drivers on the Westside out of their cars.

It could be an awkward encounter for Villaraigosa, who's been trying to get Congress and the president to sign on to his 30/10 project, in which the MTA can get a loan worth billions of dollars to start constructing the subway sooner rather than later and pay back the feds with voter-approved Measure R money. For years, Villaraigosa and former Santa Monica Mayor Denny Zane have publicly promised that the Subway to the Sea would ease traffic congestion. The EIR showed otherwise.

L.A. Weekly, in fact, wrote about that explosive study a few weeks ago, and subsequently thought that since the $9-billion Westside subway will eat up nearly one-quarter of the $40-billion Measure R money that's funding the rail extension and other transportation projects in L.A. County, it would be a good idea to find out if the president knows the exact details of Villaraigosa's big sell.

So we recently asked White House press aide Adam Abrams if President Obama knew about the EIR. Abrams sent us over to the Department of Transportation, where spokeswoman Maureen Knightly said, yes, indeed, the Obama administration knows about the study, but she wouldn't say exactly who.

Knightly, however, gave us a boring quote from Roy Kienitz, Under Secretary for Policy with the U.S. Department of Transportation, that pretty much said nothing:

"We look forward to working with Los Angeles officials and making progress on their transit priorities for the city," says Kienitz. "We will review these proposals as they come forward, in the same manner that we review other critical projects around the country."

Knightly wouldn't say if Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood knew anything about the EIR, but he'll be attending today's White House confab, too.

MTA officials, in the meantime, are wrapping up a public meetings comment period for the EIR, where citizens can throw in their two cents about the Subway to the Sea. At the one meeting we attended, several Angelenos spoke as if they were still under the impression that the rail line would ease traffic problems on the Westside -- and no MTA staffers corrected them.

It makes us wonder if President Obama is under that mistaken impression, too. It could make for an interesting meeting at the White House, if the right questions are asked... if they're asked at all.

Contact Patrick Range McDonald at pmcdonald@laweekly.com.


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