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LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa testifies before Congressional committee

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaigosa makes pitch to Senator Sheldon Whitehouse from Rhode Island.
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaigosa makes pitch to Senator Sheldon Whitehouse from Rhode Island.
Kitty Felde/KPCC

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Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa testified before a congressional committee today. He wants federal help to build the so-called Subway to the Sea and other transit projects in 10 years instead of 30.

The mayor’s pitch was simple: if Washington can provide loan guarantees or interest rate subsidies, L.A. can get the bond money it needs to speed up construction of a dozen different projects, including a subway line from downtown Los Angeles to Santa Monica.

"We think we can generate almost four billion dollars in savings in a ten year period of time due to the soft market, the fact that the unemployment rate in the construction industry particularly is as high as it is," Mayor Villaraigosa told the committee.

Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., scheduled the hearing.

"it would be foolish that we’ve got this opportunity now to save these funds that we just didn’t speed up this whole idea," she said.

Villaraigosa backed up his pitch with facts and figures for members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

"I read your paper and it’s very impressive," Senator George Voinovich, R-Ohio, told the Villaraigosa.

Federal transportation under-secretary Roy Kienitz testified that several existing federal programs could help, but not to the tune of 40-billion dollars.

That’s the amount of revenue L.A. County’s sales tax would raise over a 30-year period, the amount the region needs now to complete the project in 10 years.

"It’s not clear that any of these programs – either existing or as currently proposed – can fully support the vision that’s been articulated," Kienitz said.

The Senate expects to pass a multi-year transportation bill this year. LA’s mayor wants that bill to include the creative financing he needs to jumpstart the subway project.