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Federal transportation bill offers mixed bag for Los Angeles

A transportation bill rolled out Thursday by the Republican chairman of the House Transportation Committee offers a mixed bag for Los Angeles.

On one hand, the proposal by Rep. John Mica of Florida would authorize $1 billion a year, up from the current $110 million, for a federal transportation loan program that Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa sees as critical to his efforts to speed expansion of the L.A. region’s transportation system.

While the Republican-run House and Democratic-controlled Senate appear headed for a clash over the total spending level for transportation over the next few years, Mica joins Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), the committee chairwoman who will write much of the Senate bill, in advocating higher funding for the loan program. That increases its prospects for ending up in a final bill.

It was such good news to Villaraigosa that the mayor called into Mica’s Capitol Hill bill unveiling to publicly thank him.

On the other hand, Mica’s proposal drew widespread criticism for underfunding other transportation programs.

"With high gas prices and a slow economy, now is not the time to implement cuts of more than 30% in public transportation funding," the American Public Transportation Assn. said.

Congressional Democrats said Mica’s $230-billion, six-year proposal wouldn’t do enough to create jobs and promote economic recovery.

"While there are many things we agree on, locking in these drastic cuts in transportation over six years is a recipe for large job losses," Boxer said.

Mica called his plan the "only fiscally responsible proposal" that would ensure the solvency of the highway trust fund.

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-- Richard Simon in Washington

 
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