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Congressional transit leaders meet with Villaraigosa in Westwood

In a rare joint House-Senate hearing, the L.A. mayor pushes for innovation in financing mass transit projects, including his own 30/10 plan. Lawmakers from both parties appear receptive to his ideas.

February 24, 2011|By Patrick J. McDonnell, Los Angeles Times
  • Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, left, and Rep. John Mica of Florida
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, left, and Rep. John Mica of Florida (Rich Pedroncelli (left),…)

Promoting a signature initiative on his home turf, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa urged Congress on Wednesday to adopt "innovative" new ways to help finance mass transit projects nationwide — including his own 30/10 plan, which would complete 30 years of L.A.-area projects in a decade.

"This is America's fast-forward," Villaraigosa said after outlining his proposal before an unusual joint House-Senate hearing in Westwood.

After the hearing, Villaraigosa dismissed widely voiced concerns that the new Republican majority in the House of Representatives might be cool to his ambitious mass transit agenda.

"Creating jobs and building transportation infrastructure can and should be a bipartisan issue," he said.

The mayor's proposal would expand and enhance the existing federal Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act. Under Villaraigosa's blueprint, local governments could leverage additional federal money through loans, subsidies and other financing.

Both Democrats and Republicans at the hearing seemed receptive to the mayor's ideas, though no commitments were made. The session was one in an ongoing series of field hearings.

"Anyone who comes to Los Angeles and thinks we do not need improvements in transportation must be living on another planet," said Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, who bemoaned the nation's "crumbling" transport infrastructure.

Mica and his colleagues expressed frustration that transportation projects often drag on for years and said they were keen to speed the process. Villaraigosa and others voiced support for streamlining what some called duplicative federal and state environmental reviews, as long as environmental protections were not diminished.

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