US & World

Los Angeles Mayor Villaraigosa lobbies Senate for federal transportation money

L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa testifies before Senate committee
L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa testifies before Senate committee
Kitty Felde/KPCC

Last week, L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa came to Washington, D.C. to lobby for creative federal financing for rail and subway projects. The mayor’s back, delivering the same message, this time to a Senate committee.

A voter-approved half-cent sales tax pays for transit projects in L.A. County. It’ll take 30 years for that tax to pay for the “Subway to the Sea” and other projects that Mayor Villaraigosa wants to build.

He says the work can be done in just 10 years with some creative financing – and he told the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee that it’s easy to do. Just expand the federal government’s transportation loan program known as TIFIA, the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act.

"At a time when we’re looking at historic deficits and debt," he said, "we need creative financing mechanisms to incentivize localities."

Committee chair and California Democrat Barbara Boxer says the idea to expand the transportation loan program has support from Republicans – and that’s a good thing. "We need to find the areas where there’s agreement across the aisle. If we find that agreement, we’ll get a bill done. If we don’t find that agreement, we won’t."

The Department of Transportation says the TIFIA loan program Villaraigosa wants to expand doesn’t have enough money in it. It can only fund one in 10 proposals at the present time.

Boxer says her committee will start writing the multi-year transportation bill later this year.