There's nothing quite like an election year to bring forth an administration's best efforts in public works, even public works built through government grant programs that are undergoing large budget cuts. Thus, this past week, Transportation Secretary Drew Lewis was touring California, where one-tenth of the nation's voters live, and handing out money. The largest single grant is for $62 million in the Los Angeles area; much of that will buy buses and build a new garage, but $9 million will be used to complete preliminary engineering for Los Angeles' long-sought subway in the Wilshire Boulevard corridor.

"While this is not a commitment to construction," Lewis said, "the engineering work will provide the kind of data needed for the decisions that will have to be made at a later date." Los Angeles does not have a subway, so the Wilshire project would be a "new start," something many Reagan administration officials have opposed since the days of Office of Management and Budget Director David A. Stockman's black book.

Lewis also handed out $6 million in emergency relief funds to help repair flood-damaged highways in Northern California, and dropped off $10 million in Oakland to help the bus system there build and refurbish a transit maintenance facility.