Richardson says light rail could transform L.A., other cities |

Richardson says light rail could transform L.A., other cities

AP Political Writer

Democratic presidential hopeful Gov. Bill Richardson, N.M., talks about his energy policy at a town hall meeting at the Burton Barr Central Library, Monday, June 4, 2007, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

WEST HOLLYWOOD – In the nation’s capital of gridlock, Democratic presidential candidate Bill Richardson promised Monday to create a partnership to build a light rail network and help untangle the Los Angeles region’s notorious traffic.

With gas prices rising and roadways jammed, Richardson said it was time to rethink a federal transportation policy that pumps billions of dollars into new roads each year. Mass transit, he said, will be the best, cleanest way to move metropolitan residents in the future.

If elected, he said he would “make it a major effort to refocus transportation construction of roads into light rail and more energy efficient transportation,” the New Mexico governor told reporters at a news conference.

“I would make light rail at least an equal partner” with highways, he said. With more rail and clean-running buses, “it’s going to improve the quality of life in this country.”

Richardson provided few specifics about funding, but said the construction would be financed with bonds backed by the state and federal government.

In his home state, Richardson started a commuter rail project, the Rail Runner Express, that runs along a 50-mile stretch through the state’s most populous city, Albuquerque. It is not light rail; it uses existing track and conventional engines and cars. The nearly $400 million project also includes a planned extension north to Santa Fe, the capital, to help ease roadway congestion.

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Richardson said the Bush White House has been “absent” when it comes to developing light rail, high-speed trains and other cleaner-running transportation systems in big cities. He said vast sums of money are siphoned off for pork-barrel road projects, which are of questionable value.