Mayor Villaraigosa Urges House To Pass America Fast Forward Program
“We got to invest in our bridges. We got to invest in our roads. We got to invest in public transit,” Villaraigosa said.
The surface transportation bill was passed by U.S. Senate last Wednesday by a bipartisan vote of 74-22, reauthorizing the nation’s highway and transit programs for two years.
The bill will save or create 1.8 million jobs across the country. The America Fast Forward portion of the bill can create 1 million additional jobs nationwide.
Mel Wilson, director of the MTA (Metropolitan Transportation Authority), said some of L.A.’s transit projects needs funding sooner.
“In San Fernando Valley, the Van Nuys Boulevard Corridor has about 30,000 people a day who ride buses,” Wilson said. “It’s scheduled now to start in 2019, we need to get it started sooner."
The America Fast Forward program will enable local transit agencies to compete for the next two years for $2 billion in low-interest TIFIA loans and create 166,000 jobs by accelerating bus and rail projects in Los Angeles, according to Villaraigosa.
“It doesn’t score against the deficit, it doesn’t score against the debt. It’s really a way for cities and counties putting up their own money to fill the void that deficit and debt is created at the federal level,” he said.
The program will create about 200,000 jobs on the transit projects, and 450,000 jobs on all the projects in L.A County, according to Art Leahy, CEO of MTA.
“We’ll try to accelerate, if the Boxer’s bill is passed, the Pasadena Gold Line to Monrovia," Leahy said. "We’ll accelerate the Exposition 2 project to Santa Monica. We have the Crenshaw line we’re just out to bid now to go under construction. We’ll look to accelerate the Regional Connector in downtown, and the extension of the subway out to Westwood."
Republican leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives agreed Wednesday to renew temporarily transportation funding. Transportation Committee Chairman John Mica said he would propose a funding extension through June, reports Reuters.
“Our message to them is simple: There is no time for short-term extensions. The American people want the Congress, the House leadership to focus on job number one: creating jobs,” Villaraigosa said. “An extension of the current transportation bill is an absolute nonstarter. You lose jobs with just an extension.”
Some business and labor leaders also joined Mayor Villaraigosa to urge the House the pass the bill.
“If we set aside our historical disputes and look toward our common futures, and work together the way that business community, the labor community and the environmental community have set aside their historical disputes in Los Angeles County and work together to make measure R happen and work together to build a campaign for America Fast Forward, there is literally nothing we can not achieve,” said Denny Zane, executive director of Move LA.
“We look to Congress to set aside their disputes and look toward our common futures just as we have here in Los Angeles.”
This surface transportation bill has support of 188 mayors from across the country, according to Villaraigosa, who is the president of U.S. Conference of Mayors, the official nonpartisan organization of cities with populations of 30,000 or more.