LA’s bus and bike lane measure will cost $3.1 billion, according to a new report. Backers shout foul

(Mel Melcon/Los Angeles Times)

LA’s bus and bike lane measure will cost $3.1 billion, according to a new report. Backers shout foul

Homepage News, Elections 2024, LA Politics, Transportation

David Zahniser

February 16, 2024

With L.A.’s city elections less than three weeks away, City Hall’s top budget official said Measure HLA, the ballot proposal to implement hundreds of miles of transportation improvements, would cost the city at least $3.1 billion over the next decade.

City Manager Matt Szabo said projects required as part of Measure HLA, a proposal on the March 5 ballot, would create new financial obligations without generating additional transportation dollars.

Szabo provided his analysis in a newly written 12-page report, which served as an update to an earlier, lower estimate issued last year. Appearing before the City Council on Friday, Szabo said if the measure passes, city leaders will have to determine whether to suspend some construction projects to make way for the bike lanes and sidewalk improvements that would be needed.

If the proposal passes, “you will be asked to make compensatory decisions and may not fund other projects and priorities to meet the mandates of this measure,” he said.

Szabo’s report provoked an angry response from Streets for All, the advocacy group that created Measure HLA, a proposal to force city leaders to complete transportation projects outlined in the city’s Mobility Plan, a planning document created in 2015 by the city council has approved.

Streets for All called the report a “last-minute election ploy” in an email. Michael Schneider, who is leading the Yes on HLA campaign, also told the council that the city’s budget analyst was “playing political games.”

“All we are asking is that the CAO stop using taxpayer money to play politics before the election and let voters decide whether they want to implement the plan … to make our streets safer,” he said.

Councilmember Eunisses Hernandez, who has endorsed HLA, expressed her own frustrations with the analysis and said the city is not doing enough to address the rising number of traffic fatalities. According to last year’s statistics, these fatalities now exceed the number of murders.

“This situation here is mainly why I voted against the budget,” she said. “Because when I think about public safety, safe street infrastructure is also public safety. Yet here we are dissecting everything in this report. We haven’t parsed the $1 billion we just gave. [police] increases.”

HLA supporters have for weeks attacked Szabo’s previous cost estimates for the measure. Szabo said in a financial impact statement prepared for voters last year that HLA could cost more than $2.5 billion.

Supporters of Measure HLA have strongly disputed that figure, saying it included more than $1 billion in sidewalk repairs that are not required as part of the ballot proposal. They described Szabo’s other cost figures as inflated and said he relied on “Rolls Royce” versions of transportation projects, rather than cheaper alternatives.

Szabo has defended his office’s figures as “conservative estimates.” On Friday, he said his latest report does not take into account the increase in construction costs that typically occurs over time. If these had been included, the cost of the traffic improvements would have been more than $4 billion, he said.

Measure HLA would mandate the installation of transportation upgrades on corridors targeted for Mobility Plan improvements. If city crews make repairs to one-eighth of a mile of one of those streets, any Mobility Plan upgrade planned for that stretch would have to be included in the roadwork.

Supporters of Measure HLA have said it would bring bus and bike lanes to Ventura Boulevard in the San Fernando Valley. On the east side, they said the city would add protected bike lanes to Soto Street and Whittier Boulevard. In Hollywood, unprotected bike lanes would be built on Santa Monica Boulevard, HLA supporters said.

In his report, Szabo estimated that the bicycle upgrades needed as part of the measure would cost HLA about $1.1 billion, while sidewalk upgrades would cost another $2 billion. Additionally, community outreach could cost as much as $80 million, according to the report.

Councilman Bob Blumenfield addressed Szabo’s findings, saying he wrongly assumed the construction projects in the Mobility Plan would have to be completed by 2035. The report, he said, “creates a completely artificial ten-year horizon, which seems to increase expectations. cost.”

Szabo said he chose the 10-year timeline because the mobility plan had to run until 2035. If the work takes more than a decade, the overall cost of those transportation projects will increase, he said.

Councilor Hugo Soto-Martnez, who has endorsed the HLA, also addressed the report, saying the city’s handling of the issue had become “incredibly politicized.”

“I have a lot of questions, but I’m not going to ask them,” he said during Friday’s meeting. “Because I think that, in my opinion, contributes to a flawed approach.”

Richard Serrano, a write-in candidate for City Council in the central San Fernando Valley, offered a different view, telling council members that Pacoima already has too much traffic congestion.

“We don’t have room for bike lanes that one person can ride on once a day,” he said. “We need mobility, and we need it for cars.”


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