Founders of a new lobbying effort aimed at monitoring state funding earmarked for Valley transportation projects have been criticized for attempting to duplicate the efforts of Sacramento lawmakers and agencies. However, much of that criticism has come from Sacramento itself. Caltrans officials, expected to coordinate projects with the Los Angeles Department of Transportation, say there is no need to duplicate their efforts. Representatives of Gov. Gray Davis agree, saying there is no dire need for additional pressure. Caltrans spokesman Dennis Trujillo said the local lobbying effort is essentially unnecessary and unlikely to have any impact in moving up groundbreaking dates. Trujillo said, “We are going to go through the process and do what we always do. I don’t think they’ve pinpointed programs yet, but with transportation you have multi-levels of government. The governor introduced (the package) last year and we are moving forward aggressively.” David Fleming, head of the Economic Alliance of the San Fernando Valley, and former Assemblyman Richard Katz, head of the transportation committee for the Valley Industry and Commerce Association (VICA), will lead the new San Fernando Valley Transportation Strike Force, formed two weeks ago to lobby for Valley transit projects. The strike force, they say, will put pressure on Sacramento lawmakers to secure promised funding for local transportation improvement projects. Ever since Davis signed legislation appropriating money for transportation last year, Valley leaders have worried that the funding would end up elsewhere. VICA Chairwoman Cathy McGuire will also serve as a strike force member. Assembly Speaker Bob Hertzberg (D-Sherman Oaks) will head an advisory committee for elected officials and David Granis, a lobbyist with Planning Company Associates, will serve as chief consultant for the strike force. Hilary McLean, a spokeswoman for Davis, said, “I haven’t heard anyone talking about undoing (the governor’s plans for transportation projects). But the governor hasn’t taken a position on the strike force, and they can do what they want.” McLean did say there is always the possibility that the money could be used for emergencies unrelated to the Valley, such as an earthquake or a major flood. But, she said, there was no indication that would happen, nor would money be diverted to the state’s ongoing energy crisis because the governor has set aside cash for just those kinds of events. “The governor had the foresight to set aside $1 billion to meet the energy challenge, and another $1.9 million for a prudent reserve fund,” said McLean. “That money is money in the budget that is unallocated. It’s a rainy day fund for unanticipated expenses.” According to Katz, the strike force will provide transportation consultants to spearhead its efforts, along with its own political muscle, to make sure the Valley gets its fair share of the $5.2 billion set aside for state-wide projects in Gov. Gray Davis’ 2000 Traffic Congestion Relief Plan. “The Valley for years has gotten shortchanged on transportation dollars,” said Katz. “Yet it has donated close to $2 billion to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority over the last two years. The sense is there was a significant amount of money being paid out, but not that much coming in.” Michael Gagan, a lobbyist with the Los Angeles-based Rose & Kindel, follows transportation issues for several companies. He said it is possible to influence the money trail and even get projects off the ground sooner by maintaining a strong presence in Sacramento. “You can accelerate the process,” said Gagan. “Reallocating funds that have been set aside for projects elsewhere is done all the time with Caltrans and the Transportation Commission. So, these kinds of groups help because they bring clarity to the type of projects that a specific area is looking for, and they focus attention on the project in a way that otherwise might not.” Katz said anything can happen in the next four to seven years during which projects are scheduled to start dates he says the strike force will also work to push forward. “The goal of the strike force is to make sure that that money is spent here,” Katz said. “Because it’s surplus money, it can be spent on anything. The legislature can go back and change the law if they have to pay for other projects.” Another issue that could play a part in the strike force’s plans: possible Valley secession. Supporters of a breakup say they don’t get enough funding from the city; anti-secessionists believe the Valley needs Los Angeles’ muscle to land local projects. The strike force’s success or failure could wind up being used as political ammunition by either side. “For those people who don’t want to see the Valley split away, obviously it’s to their benefit that we get this funding and these projects off the ground,” said Katz, also on the board of Valley VOTE, the group spearheading a study on secession. “We also understand that there is a danger in being successful here, but those are the problems we’d love to have.” Katz also said impending city elections have the potential to usher in changes that could threaten the outcome of planned transportation projects throughout Los Angeles. “There is going to be change,” Katz said. “The strike force is designed to provide some continuity and we will be keeping an eye on who is termed out.” In addition to funding set aside for sound wall projects and improvements at the 101-405 interchange, the Governor’s funding package provides for the following: – $245 million for the San Fernando Valley Transit Extension Project. One hundred forty-five million dollars will pay for a new east-west bus system from North Hollywood to Warner Center. The remainder will pay for a north-south corridor transit project to connect the east-west project and the existing Ventura Boulevard Rapid Bus project. Projected years to break ground: 5-7. – $90 million for a new northbound carpool lane on the San Diego (405) Freeway over the Sepulveda Pass. Projected years to break ground: 6. – $50 million for new carpool lanes along the Golden State (5) Freeway through the Valley and the Hollywood (170) Freeway to Route 14 (Antelope Valley Freeway). Projected years to break ground: 4.