Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer renewed her commitment Monday to securing federal assistance for Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's plan to accelerate 12 of the region's transit projects, completing them in one decade instead of three.
Facing unrelenting attacks on her effectiveness as a lawmaker by her campaign rival, Republican Carly Fiorina, Boxer tried to highlight her policymaking skills by joining Villaraigosa, as well as environmental, business and labor leaders for a "working group" discussion that unfolded in front of a dozen reporters and a line of television cameras at City Hall.
Villaraigosa and officials at the county's Metropolitan Transportation Authority are hoping to secure a combination of federal loans, interest rate subsidies and other financing to speed up projects approved as part of Measure R. The half-penny sales tax approved by voters in 2008 is expected to generate as much as $40 billion over the next three decades for projects that include a subway extension to Westwood, a segment of the Gold Line light rail line from Pasadena to Azusa and an 8.5-mile rail line along Crenshaw Blvd into South Los Angeles and the South Bay. Officials say the dozen projects could generate 166,000 jobs.
Boxer, who chairs the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, said she was working on legislation that would create greater flexibility in existing federal transportation programs and hoped to convince her colleagues in Congress to make more federal transportation dollars available for the mayor's so-called 30/10 initiative and programs like it across the country.
"We are going to get it done and it's going to be a template for the nation," Boxer said during the hourlong forum. "Everything we do is job-focused, but everything we do has to be deficit-neutral, except emergencies …. We have to leverage every single penny that we can."
The mayor's 30/10 plan also drew support Monday from Fiorina. A spokeswoman for the former Hewlett Packard chief executive said Fiorina "believes that investment in California's crumbling infrastructure, including transit, is an important element in creating and protecting middle-class jobs and ensuring the state's economy can again thrive."
"Los Angeles voters have made a commitment to improving the region's transportation infrastructure, so Carly hopes the mayor is successful in getting the needed funds to accelerate that investment," Fiorina's spokeswoman Andrea Saul said.
Although Villaraigosa has been lobbying for his plan for nearly a year, he said Monday that the coalition backing the idea has made "amazing" progress since last year. Initially when he proposed the idea, "there were a lot of people who laughed us out of their office," Villaraigosa said. Recently, he said, even President Obama told him that he "could feel the momentum."
"I've got three years left," Villaraigosa said, referring to the rest of his term as mayor. "I'm not going out on a cot here — I'm going to go out on a train."