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L.A. Transit Advocates Urge National Infrastructure Spending Bill

Ryan Faughnder |
February 24, 2012 | 2:28 p.m. PST

Executive Editor

Transportation advocates and policy makers converged on Los Angeles’ Union Station Friday morning to rally support behind the many initiatives working through the channels of government at the local, state and national levels. 

Union Station (Creative Commons)
Union Station (Creative Commons)

Speakers at the event sponsored by Move L.A. touted L.A. County’s achievements in transportation over the last several years and pushed the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's light rail and highway projects as ways to stimulate development and create jobs in the city.

This comes as lawmakers in the U.S. Congress and the Senate are working out bills for transportation infrastructure. A $109 billion bill in the Senate backed by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) this week cleared a major hurdle with an 85-11 vote, approving it for debate on the Senate floor. Meanwhile a bill in the House is undergoing a legislative redo by Republicans.

Yvette Martinez, a senior adviser to Boxer, said that while neither side is getting everything they want from the Senate bill, it is an important milestone. She also said the bill has been bogged down by various amendments and additions by Republican legislators.

“We need to keep pushing, we need to keep calling,” she said. 

A conference in 2008 similar to Friday’s event spawned Measure R, which was approved as a ballot initiative in a supermajority vote and levied a half-cent sales tax for 30 years to raise about $40 billion for transit projects. Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s 30-10 plan is intended to accelerate that to a 10-year push by borrowing against tax revenue already committed through Measure R.

The U.S. Senate infrastructure bill includes funding for Metro's proposed plan America Fast Forward, which would help the city reach its goal of finishing its ambitious projects within a single decade.

Former Metro board chair Richard Katz extolled the developments as successful beyond what most people had anticipated in a time of divided government and aversion to spending. “We’re actually going to have a vote on America Fast Forward, which is an enormous accomplishment,” Katz said.

Underscoring that optimism is the fact that California State Assemblyman Mike Feuer has proposed legislation in Sacramento that would extend Measure R. Feuer said in Friday morning’s panel discussion that the extension would give the county options for funding the accelerated projects in the event that no federal bill is passed. He said this is especially vital for L.A. “in terms of job creation and when we so desperately need it in terms of moving goods.”

Measure R projects include connecting light rail lines to LAX, building the Sepulveda Pass Corridor to connect San Fernando to West L.A., the Gold Line extension, and others.

Said Move L.A. Director Denny Zane, “There are great opportunities out there if we think boldly.”

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