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Villaraigosa and Boxer are joined by GOP and business leaders in call for more federal transportation money

March 30, 2011 |  2:18 pm

The scene was highly unusual for hyperpartisan Washington: a Senate Democrat, a House Republican, and business and labor leaders gathered in the same room, all in support of the same issue.

But that’s just the sight that Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who also was there on Capitol Hill, hopes will boost his efforts to secure federal help, even in tough fiscal times, to speed expansion of the region’s transportation system.

"I’m standing here with people who tried to beat me, really tried to beat me," joked Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), standing with Thomas J. Donohue, the head of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which worked hard though unsuccessfully to oust the California Democrat in last fall’s election. "When it comes to infrastructure," she added, "there’s a different atmosphere."

But there also is a strong push by congressional Republicans this year to drastically cut federal spending.

Nonetheless, Rep. John Mica, the Florida Republican who chairs the House Transportation Committee, joined Boxer, his counterpart in the Senate; AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka; Villaraigosa, a Democrat; and Mayor Scott Smith of Mesa, Ariz., a Republican. They called for increasing funding for a federal transportation loan program and exploring other innovative ways to pay for transportation projects.

"If you’re out in the hinterlands like we are in Arizona you’d think that nobody agrees on anything in Washington," Smith said. But he said the bipartisan gathering Wednesday "should send a message."

Villaraigosa’s plan, commonly known as the 30/10 proposal because it aims to build a dozen projects in 10 years instead of the originally scheduled 30 years, has been given a new name, America Fast Forward, to portray it as a national initiative that could benefit other regions.

The mayor continues his effort to try to build support for the initiative with a meeting Thursday with Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma, the top Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

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-- Rich Simon, Washington Bureau

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