When Antonio Villaraigosa ran for mayor, one of his big proposals was the Subway to the Sea. Now that the Westside subway extension is finally, however slowly, moving toward reality, the candidates for mayor are looking for the next big challenge.
They seem to have settled on building a train through the Sepulveda Pass. At a recent debate, the two frontrunners -- Wendy Greuel and Eric Garcetti -- both endorsed tunneling through the pass as the next logical step in expanding L.A.'s rail network.
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Though there seems to be an emerging political consensus around the idea, it's still not clear where the money would come from for such an expensive undertaking.
Measure R, the half-cent sales tax approved in 2008, provides $1 billion for a Sepulveda Pass transit project. But the Sepulveda Pass is so steep that the only way to put a train through it is by building a six-mile tunnel. Current estimates put the cost of such a project at $4.8 billion to $5.5 billion.
Though Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa endorsed the train idea back in April, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority has not taken a position on the project. Other possibilities include creating a bus lane on the shoulder of the 405 freeway, turning carpool lanes on the 405 into toll lanes, or building an aerial bus-and-toll lane.
Under the Measure R schedule, the Sepulveda Pass project would not be completed until 2039. Measure J, the extension of the sales tax on the November ballot, would accelerate the completion date to 2025. But it would provide no additional funding beyond the $1 billion provided by Measure R -- leaving it to the next mayor to scrounge up $4 billion from other sources.