405 lane up to Arnold

first_img Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and other local leaders were thrilled at the Senate’s swift passage of the measure, which they began fighting for last summer, and urged the governor’s approval. The mayor is “happy to see that the Legislature recognizes the extreme urgency of the situation in the Valley and on the Westside,” said his spokesman, Darryl Ryan. “Mayor Villaraigosa is also looking forward to Gov. Schwarzenegger signing the bill so we can get moving on getting the people of L.A. moving.” Councilwoman Wendy Greuel, who chairs the council’s Transportation Committee, was also pleased. “We’re very excited, thrilled,” she said. “The message we’re trying to send here in Los Angeles is we want to make sure Los Angeles is getting its fair share. The 405 car-pool lane is critical to easing some of our traffic woes.” Four months after snubbing San Fernando Valley motorists, the state Senate handed them a major victory Monday, quickly passing legislation needed to fast-track construction of the 405 Freeway car-pool lane and avoid losing $130 million in federal money. Legislation for the 10-mile car-pool lane on a traffic-choked stretch between the Westside and the Valley now goes to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger for his signature. Some officials worry, however, that Schwarzenegger will veto the bill because he wants legislation that would expedite projects around the state, not just on the 405. While the governor typically does not comment on pending legislation, a spokesman said he strongly supports the construction method – known as design-build – outlined in SB 1026. “The governor is strongly supportive of design-build and believes that design-build efficiencies give California taxpayers the best bang for their buck and hopes the Legislature will provide this authority for all projects,” said his spokesman, Vince Sollitto. Rep. Howard Berman, the Van Nuys Democrat who secured $130 million for the $500 million car-pool lane in last summer’s federal highway spending bill, was elated by the Senate action. “I urge the governor to take advantage of this opportunity to reduce traffic congestion in Los Angeles and to sign the bill into law as soon as possible,” he said in a statement. The $130 million that Berman secured must be spent by 2009, and the state Department of Transportation said it needs design-build authority to get the project completed by that time. The balance could come from local funds and $350 million Schwarzenegger proposed in his infrastructure bonds. Design-build would allow a private firm to simultaneously plan and build the project, potentially shaving time off the schedule. However, the state’s engineering union strongly opposes design-build, which would take the job out of the hands of Caltrans’ engineers. Last fall, after Berman secured the funding, many Valley Assembly members resisted crafting a bill that went against the union. They came aboard only after Villaraigosa and his representatives pushed hard for the bill co-authored by Assemblywoman Fran Pavley, D-Woodland Hills. The bill passed in the Assembly in September and was sent to the Senate, which abruptly adjourned – a day earlier than planned – dealing a serious setback to the the car-pool lane project. The Senate voted 28-8 Monday – the first bill passed this year – drawing support from the Valley-areas Democrats and Republicans. “I’m thrilled. I drive on the 405 every weekend (and) I know – and so do so many of us – how much we need this,” said Sen. Sheila Kuehl, D-Santa Monica, who co-authored the bill. “We got the job done. I’m hoping the governor will sign it.” Lisa Mascaro, (818) 713-3761 [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img read more