Broad LA coalition pushes Congress for transportation funds

A coalition of advocates today urged the federal government to accelerate funding for local transportation projects, such as the "Subway to the Sea'' and a link for several light rail lines in downtown Los Angeles.

They also urged Congress to back President Barack Obama's proposal to upgrade roads, railways and runways as a way of stimulating the economy and creating jobs.

In a news conference at the Wilshire/Western Purple Line subway station, City Council President Eric Garcetti endorsed the 30/10 initiative, which calls for building 12 major transportation projects in Los Angeles County over 10 years as opposed to 30 years as originally planned.

Voters agreed in 2008 to pay for the projects with a half-cent sales tax increase over 30 years. Garcetti said that time span is too long.

"We are asking the federal government to not wait decades but to put people to work, to clean the air and to reduce traffic now,'' he said. "The plans are in place and people of Los Angeles have committed their fair share.

Tracey Rafter of the Los Angeles County Business Federation said, "A business poll revealed that mobility is a top concern for businesses. We need transportation infrastructure that connects the region.''

Andrew Hoevler, a Westside business owner, said he often wastes time and money when he battles traffic to meet clients.

"If there were better public transportation connections to the Westside, I would improve my productivity and be able to hire more staff,'' he said.

Erin Steva, a transportation advocate with the nonpartisan and nonprofit California Public Interest Research Group, said an estimated 300,000 people travel to the Westside every day for work.

"L.A.'s stuck in a perpetual Sig-Alert that is choking our economy,'' she said. "We need help from the USDOT and Congress so we can get more bang for our buck by creating jobs when we really need them, and build projects like the Subway to the Sea that will give people a way out of traffic.''

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has been lobbying Congress and Obama for months to embrace the 30-10 initiative, saying it would create 165,000 construction jobs and at least 2,800 permanent operations and maintenance jobs.

He said it would also eliminate more than a half-million pounds of emissions; save 10.3 million gallons of gasoline; and expand transit boardings by 77 million during each year of that decade.

The projects included in the initiative are:

On Monday, Obama urged Congress to create a government-run ``infrastructure bank'' that would finance transportation projects. It calls for pooling tax dollars and private investment to immediately infuse $50
million toward transportation projects.