MTA Chairman Najarian fires back about subway funding

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Glendale City Councilman Ara Najarian (Scott Smeltzer/News-Press)

Glendale City Councilman Ara Najarian (Scott Smeltzer/News-Press)

An application for federal funding for the so-called “subway to the sea” stirred up a storm of controversy this week after area members of Congress embarked on a campaign to change the course of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

MTA Chairman Ara Najarian, who also sits on the Glendale City Council, fired back Thursday at lawmakers who had questioned whether seeking funding for the proposed Westside extension of the Purple Line subway to Santa Monica was the best decision for Los Angeles County given the economic climate.

The MTA is also seeking funding for a light rail project in downtown L.A. that would connect a series of current and future lines that cut through the area.

“I’m very frustrated,” Najarian said of the public protests from legislators, who have made radio appearances and submitted letters to area newspapers urging the MTA to change its stance.

He made his comments before a meeting of the MTA Board of Directors today.

He said he felt the lawmakers were trying to influence an ill-advised change in direction after the MTA voted unanimously to pursue funding for the two projects, he said.

“I think the MTA is definitely taking the right approach,” Najarian said. “Unfortunately, some of our members of Congress have received bad information.”

Fourteen members of Congress, in a letter to Najarian, urged the MTA to add three projects to its application for competitive grants from the Federal Transit Administration.

The coalition, which included Reps. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) and David Dreier (R-San Dimas), argued the MTA should also seek funding for an extension of the Gold Line from Pasadena to Montclair, as well as another extension of that line from East L.A. toward El Monte.

They also pressed the body to include in its application the proposed Crenshaw/South Bay Transit Corridor, a rail line that would connect Los Angeles International Airport with the Green Line and the Expo Line, which is currently under construction in Culver City.

“The potential is very great for this and this is not a zero-sum game,” Dreier said of expanding the application. “We can focus on priorities throughout Southern California, but this is one that we just can’t let drop by the wayside because by doing it, we jeopardize our chance at funding.”

But adding more projects to the MTA’s application could cause problems, Najarian said.

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Written by Zain Shauk

October 22, 2009 at 12:12 pm

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