...[Such] was the scene this morning at Wilshire Boulevard and Western Avenue above the current terminus of the Purple Line subway. "Current" is the key word there. During the news conference about Measure R's passage, Metropolitan Transportation Authority chief Roger Snoble said it may now be possible to extend the line to Fairfax Avenue within six or seven years and the line could get to Westwood in 20 years.
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa heard that, and super-super-quickly stepped to the mike and promised to be "aggressive" about securing federal dollars to speed that up. (Villaraigosa is flanked in the above photo by County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, behind him to the left, and Assemblyman Mike Feuer,far right, both of whom played key roles in getting Measure R on the ballot.)
All this means that someone has a lot of work to do. Nonetheless, and as you might expect, the mood among the local pols at the news conference ranged between ebullience and unspeakable amounts of joy. Remember the spring of 2007 when Villaraigosa and Yaroslavsky were having a, shall we say, spirited discussion over MTA fare increases? Well, the two men lavished praise upon one another Wednesday morning, with the mayor suggesting that he and Yaroslavsky were now "joined at the hip."
With just two hours' sleep on election night, followed by a long drive to the Westside from the San Gabe Valley, the Road Sage couldn't even begin to tackle the merging of two such political organisms.
On a more serious note: Whether you voted for Measure R or not, the MTA expects to receive up to $40 billion in sales tax revenue over the 30 year life of the sales tax. That's about $40 billion more than the MTA otherwise would have had for new projects, the reason for the celebratory mood. Villaraigosa oversaw the campaign for Measure R, which captured 67.4% of the vote.
To put that achievement in perspective, the last half-cent sales tax increase for transportation in 1990 in L.A. County barely passed with 50.4% of the vote, back when the threshold was a simple majority. Villaraigosa told me later that he had a Plan B if Measure R failed -- going back to voters at a future date -- but that the high turnout for the presidential election basically made the 2008 election an all-or-nothing proposition because it was the best way to secure the needed two-thirds approval.
"That's why we had to win," he said.
A few other highlights from the news conference:
-- Snoble indicated that the Expo Line and Gold Line extensions
are likely to be the first two rail projects to break ground with Measure R dollars. The Gold Line, he said, could begin as early as 2010. I know there are readers out there who don't believe that and I'm not saying you should. But that's what public officials are saying on the record. So, hit the print button.
-- Snoble also said that he thinks that new tunneling technology should make it easier to tunnel under Wilshire Boulevard without causing as many street disruptions as there were during construction of the existing subway. He indicated that some property will have to be acquired near Wilshire and Western to get tunneling machines into the ground.
I'm working on a story for tomorrow's editions of The Times looking at the votes on both Measure R and Prop 1A, indicating voters in California were in the mood on Tuesday to invest big-time in mass transit.