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TIFIA helps L.A. continue to bridge opportunity divide

TIFIA helps L.A. continue to bridge opportunity divide

Los Angeles, California, is our nation's second largest city, with a population of 3.8 million people. But the L.A. Metropolitan area is actually home to more than 12 million people, and if we cast our net just a bit wider to cover what's called the Greater L.A. Combined Statistical Area--the 3rd largest CSA in the world after New York and Tokyo--we're talking about nearly 18 million people. And the region continues to grow.

You don't have to be an engineer to know that creating a transportation system that can move that many people safely, reliably, and efficiently is an enormous challenge.

Photo of Crenshaw line groundbreaking

At DOT, we’ve been proud to support a number of transit projects in Los Angeles, from the Regional Connector Project to the Westside Subway Extension. And on Tuesday, I was proud again to join U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, and others to help break ground on another piece of the Southland's transportation puzzle: the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority's Crenshaw light rail line.

DOT is supporting the Crenshaw Line in the form of a $545.9 million loan from our innovative TIFIA program, which stands for the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act. The way TIFIA loans are used, we estimate that every one dollar we loan generates about 30 more dollars in infrastructure investment, acting like an adrenalin shot right to the heart of projects that communities sorely need.

And if you're familiar with L.A., you know that the Crenshaw community needs a rail transit line.

Photo of light rail, courtesy of LACMTA

The 8.5 mile line that the LACMTA is building in Crenshaw will make a tremendous difference in people’s lives. It’s fitting that we broke ground on this light rail line the day after our national remembrance of Martin Luther King, Jr. because this project is what I would call a dream project. And I mean “dream” in much the same sense that Martin Luther King meant it 50 years ago, when he spoke about bringing communities together —and freeing people from what he called, “exile in their own land.”

In no small way, this project will do exactly that. When this rail line opens in five years, it will be the first rail transit line to cross South L.A. in a generation and the first to open along the Crenshaw Boulevard corridor since 1955. It will bring the people of this community to their jobs in other parts of the city and also bring jobs to the people of Crenshaw.

For the first time in their lives, folks who have been transferring buses three or four times every day to get to work, may soon be able to find a job down the street. Which means more free time to go to PTA meetings, or help their kids with homework, or take online classes to get new skills and even better jobs.

When President Obama talks about building “ladders of opportunity,” this is precisely what he envisions.

On Tuesday, the Crenshaw community took a step toward helping to fulfill what is a core mission of the Department of Transportation –and of transportation, period—that transportation can do more than get us places better. It can make better places, too.

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