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Rep. Xavier Becerra speaks at the general meeting of the Little Tokyo Community Council on Tuesday. (MARIO G. REYES/Rafu Shimpo)

By GWEN MURANAKA, Rafu English Editor-in-Chief

Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Los Angeles) took questions and offered updates on the Metro Regional Connector rail project on Tuesday at a meeting of the Little Tokyo Community Council.

He urged Little Tokyo community members to keep his office informed on how the construction is progressing.

“Please let me know how you see things moving,” he said. “I know there are a lot of concerns about the impacts of construction. I know the benefits will be great, but you don’t see that yet, the fruits aren’t there yet. We’re planting the tree now and displacing a lot of things that are day-to-day for you.”

Becerra is the chairman of the House Democratic Caucus and a member of the powerful Committee on Ways and Means. He is also on the executive committee of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus.

Becerra also announced that Metro has been awarded an $11.8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation to improve access to the Metro station currently under construction in Little Tokyo.

The TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) grant will be used to create a network of sidewalks and bike lanes for pedestrians to the Regional Connector station at First and Central Avenue. Proposed improvements include an enhanced network of crosswalks, sidewalks and bike lanes for pedestrians and bicyclists, improved pedestrian lighting, planting and street furniture along nearby streets.

“Most of that money is earmarked for here, Little Tokyo. So we have another opportunity to make sure those resources are invested the way you want,” Becerra stated. “I believe once it is done, it will be a phenomenal addition to downtown. Little Tokyo will be one of the beneficiaries of having the Regional Connector work in the right way.”

Asked about the chances for additional support from the federal government to mitigate the problem of homelessness in downtown, Becerra was pragmatic.

“Congress is very dysfunctional right now. It’s in this mode of cutting, cutting, cutting, not trying to invest resources, your taxpayer dollars in ways that help,” said Becerra. “What we’ve seen, unfortunately, especially in the House, where I work, is a constant divestment in some of those programs and activities that would help address some of those problems like homelessness. So it’s become even more challenging.”

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