Los Angeles receives $213M in congestion reduction grants

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An ambitious plan to cut highway traffic jams and provide better bus transit services in Los Angeles is eligible for more than $213 million in federal congestion reduction grants. The Department of Transportation grants will allow local leaders to move forward with a plan to use congestion pricing to improve southern California’s traffic, economy and air quality.

“The concept is simple, but the idea is bold — to make L.A. an easier place to live, a better place to do business and a cleaner place to raise a family,” Transportation Secretary Mary Peters said. “We want this iconic American city to continue to be known for its epic Hollywood movies, not epic traffic jams.”

In announcing the funding in Los Angeles during an event Friday, April 25, with Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Peters said that the new federal funding would provide the leverage local leaders need to convert up to 85 miles of local HOV highway lanes into high-occupancy toll, or HOT, lanes by the end of 2010.

These roads use electronic tolling technology to allow drivers to pay a fee for access to less-congested lanes. Sophisticated sensors will monitor the region’s freeways and adjust fares for the lanes based on traffic levels. Being able to choose to avoid backups to experience faster commutes was “a better option than being stuck in traffic and staring at an open lane just to your left,” Peters said.

Federal funds would help finance new bus service to run on the HOT lanes. Experience and data also show that HOT lanes lead to better traffic on other parallel highway lanes, Peters said; as a result, commuters using any of the highways with HOT lanes will experience faster, more reliable trips.

Peters said the money generated by the new HOT lane tolls would be available for investments in improved transit services throughout the region. “Even if you are one of the few folks who never use a highway, getting around town is still going to get easier with this plan,” she said.

The region has until Oct. 15th to get the legislative authority needed to convert the existing HOV lanes into the new high-occupancy toll lanes, said Peters, who added that local leaders “have dared to dream big, and with the support of Sacramento and D.C., their vision of a traffic-free L.A. can become a reality.”