In recent weeks, two competing pieces of legislation are moving in Washington, D.C. The first, is moving through the House of Representatives on a series of highly partisan votes and is reviled by advocates for transit, walking, bicycling and complete streets for it’s over-the-top support for highway construction. The other is moving through the Senate with unanimous bi-partisan support and funds a more balanced vision for transportation funding.
But in yesterday’s “sunshine” press conference, Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, decided to look on the positive.
“It’s time for them to pass the surface transportation bill. it’s time for them to pass America Fast Forward,” Villaraigosa offered in a deflection of a question on Congressional investigation of how Los Angeles spent some of its federal stimulus funds. Later, responding to a direct question from Streetsblog about the partisan bill moving in the House of Representatives, Villaraigosa focused on Congressman John Mica’s (R-FL) support for America Fast Forward.
America Fast Forward is the mayor’s proposal to change and reform federal law to encourage federal investment in projects supported by local dollars. Under the proposal, Los Angeles Metro would likely be able to accelerate the construction of transit projects funded by a sales tax passed by voters in 2008.
“I am still positive about the portion of the bill that expands the current $128 million to a billion dollars for the TIFIA program which is one of the programs that L.A. needs to accelerate the 30 years of transportation funding into a shorter period of time, hopefully a ten year period,” Villaraigosa began.
“I’m also heartened that he did include three of the five reforms that we have said are necessary to accelerate that program.”
The Mayor did touch on the controversy surrounding the House Bill, but refused to weigh in. “I know there is some dissidence between the Senate and the House version, and I don’t want to get in the middle of that right now so I’ll leave it with a positive comment, for now.”
However, the non-partisan reaction to the “Mica Bill” didn’t stop Villaraigosa or LaHood from praising the legislation put forward by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and her competing legislation moving through the Senate.
“I want to give a loud shout out to Senator Boxer for working in such a bi-partisan way to put together a surface transportation bill that got total unanimous vote out of her committee, 18-0” proclaimed LaHood, responding to the same question. “She has the ranking Republican on her committee, Senator Jim Inhofe from Oklahoma. That bill is going to be on the Senate floor. It’s a two year bill. It’s a good bi-partisan bill that addresses the transportation values of America. That’s the way transportation has always been done. and I can’t give a big enough shout-out to Senator Boxer to working so hard with Senator Inhofe to get this bill to the Senate floor.”
Villaraigosa jumped in to praise the Senator. “Ditto to that, I was remiss. Barbara Boxer doesn’t have a bigger fan than Antonio Villaraigosa.”
Both pieces of legislation have passed through the committee system in their respective chambers, but a final vote has not been scheduled for either. While both the former Republican Congressman and the man some feel could replace him as Transportation Secretary held their fire on the House Republicans, it’s clear that each favors the bill moving through the Senate.