Public transit continues to be a major focus throughout Southern California, with virtually all of the county transportation agencies planning or undertaking important passenger rail projects throughout the region.  Some of those transit projects in Los Angeles and Orange County received a major boost this week, as the Los Angeles Times is reporting that the Obama administration has earmarked $500 million in the proposed federal budget for the next fiscal year for LA Metro’s Westside Subway (Purple Line) and Regional Connector projects and OCTA’s OC Streetcar project.

LA Metro is expected to receive up to $375 million for its Regional Connector and Westside Subway projects.  The Regional Connector and the first section of the Westside Subway extension already have full funding agreements with the New Starts program of the Federal Transit Administration (FTA).  Phillip Washington, LA Metro’s CEO, is quoted as stating:

The federal funds that President Obama is recommending in his budget for Metro projects will keep thousands of individuals in Los Angeles County hard at work building and providing mobility to millions of local residents.”

OCTA is likewise expected to receive up to $125 million for the OC Streetcar project, which is a 4.1-mile street car project that would run from downtown Santa Ana to a new transit hub in Garden Grove.  With construction scheduled to begin in late-2017, the federal endorsement puts the project on a path to obtain enough federal dollars to cover up to half its cost.  Darrell Johnson, OCTA’s CEO, is quoted as saying:

The OC streetcar has earned the support of the local businesses and residents of Santa Ana and Garden Grove.  Now we are seeing officials at the federal level recognize what a strong transportation project this is.”

This is an exciting time for Southern California.  As someone who routinely takes the train when traveling to Los Angeles or San Diego, I’m looking forward to more public transit alternatives.  Who knows, maybe one day we’ll catch up to Northern California.