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Villaraigosa in D.C. to lobby for federal help on mass transit projects

May 12, 2010 |  5:45 pm

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa will be back in Washington on Thursday to lobby for support for federal help to speed expansion of the region’s transit network, including the subway to Westwood.

The mayor is scheduled to testify at the U.S. Capitol, and meet privately with congressional leaders, in his effort to get Washington to provide the Los Angeles region with assistance -- perhaps federal help in paying interest on loans or using federal stimulus money -- so that projects now expected to take 30 years could be built in 10.

Villaraigosa has said that the Los Angeles region isn’t coming to Washington with its hands out, but rather offering to put up billions of its own dollars from Measure R, a half-cent sales tax approved by Los Angeles County voters last year.

The program is expected to raise $40 billion for mass transit projects, including extension of the subway to Westwood and of the light-rail Gold Line to the San Gabriel Valley.

The 30-10 plan is unprecedented because it seeks to create a pool of federal money to speed construction of light rail, subway and rapid transit bus projects. The idea has gained some traction in Congress and the U.S. Department of Transportation, and in April was endorsed by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

Under such a program, it might be possible for the nation's third-largest transportation agency to borrow federal money and pay it back with Measure R revenue or secure loan guarantees, which would allow the MTA to finance transit projects with bonds sold to investors.

Among the 12 transit projects in the 30-10 plan are the regional connector for light rail in downtown Los Angeles, the Foothill Extension of the Metro Gold Line, a Green Line extension to Los Angeles International Airport and the South Bay, the Crenshaw corridor transit project and the Orange Line Canoga Extension. The estimated cost of all the projects is about $20 billion.

While in Washington, Villaraigosa also is scheduled to speak at the United States-Mexico Chamber of Commerce "Good Neighbor Awards Gala Dinner" Thursday evening.

-- Phil Willon from City Hall

Photo: L.A. Times file