Officials Break Ground on Orange Line Extension

Elected officials and transportation leaders broke ground Wednesday on an extension of the Metro Orange Line that will stretch the popular busway to Chatsworth, making it the first project funded by Measure R tax funds to begin construction.

The $215.6 million project will extend the Orange Line -- which operates on a dedicated busway across the San Fernando Valley -- four miles from its western end point in Canoga Park to the Metrolink/Amtrak station in Chatsworth.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky and City Council members Greig Smith and Dennis Zine were among those taking part in the groundbreaking ceremony.

"We knew that this was a great opportunity to connect the dots here in the San Fernando Valley, and bring a system to the valley that will connect the employment centers," Smith said.

The project is expected to create about 3,000 jobs, and have an economic impact of $461 million. The expansion is scheduled to be completed by summer 2012.

"It's just ridiculous paying three dollars a gallon, you know, when I can pay a $1.25 to get all the way there," Orange Line rider Carlos DeSantiago told CBS2.

Los Angeles County voters narrowly approved Measure R in November. With the measure requiring the approval of two-thirds of voters, it received support from 67.41 percent.

The half-cent sales tax was opposed by some residents and officials who said the county's tax rate was high enough. Some also complained that the planned allocation of the tax funds was not equally distributed among various parts of the county.

The lion's share of the funding, 35 percent, will be spent on rail and bus rapid transit projects, including $4.2 billion for a subway connecting downtown with Westwood.

The remaining funding will be split among bus operations, highway projects, system improvements and rail operations, with 15 percent of the total given directly back to local governments for street repairs and other transportation-related projects.

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