Mayor Pitches LA Transit Projects

The mayor is hoping his frequent flyer miles will pay off

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa met with President Barack Obama Monday at the White House.

The topic? Spending on infrastructure.

Villaraigosa is seeking congressional support for a plan to accelerate the construction of 12 major transit projects in Los Angeles County.

His 30 10 Plan calls for finishing the projects -- including a portion of the Subway to the Sea and a regional connector to link several light rail lines passing through downtown Los Angeles -- in 10 years instead of 30 as initially planned.

He estimated the cost of building the projects over 30 years is $18.5 billion. Accelerating construction to 10 years would reduce the cost to $14 billion, said Villaraigosa.

Los Angeles County voters agreed in 2008 to pay for the transportation projects with a half-cent sales tax increase. Villaraigosa wants the federal government and other entities to help finance the construction now, and LA will pay back the federal advance over time.

This will be the third trip to the nation's capital in four weeks for the Mayor. Villaraigosa was in Washington Sept. 23-24 for a meeting of the leadership of the U.S. Conference of Mayors and Sept. 28-29 to promote the 30/10 initiative.

Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, Delaware Gov. Jack Markell, and the mayors of Oklahoma City, San Antonio, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Charleston, S.C. and Columbus, Ohio also were expected to attend Monday's meeting, along with Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and two of his predecessors, Norman Mineta and Samuel Skinner

Over the next six years, the infrastructure plan calls for rebuilding 150,000 miles of  roads, laying and maintaining 4,000 miles of railways, restoring 150 miles of  runways and building a new air-traffic control system that reduces flight  delays.

"The fact remains that nearly one in five construction workers is still  unemployed and needs a job," Obama said. "And that makes absolutely no  sense at a time when there is so much of America that needs rebuilding."

Obama said his plan will be fully paid for, and not add to the federal  deficit. He vowed to work with Congress to establish an infrastructure bank,  and urged Congress to focus less on "wasteful earmarks" and "shortsighted  political priorities" and more on national economic priorities.

Copyright CNS - City News Service
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