Local Reaction Positive to News of Transportation Bill Clearing Senate
Yesterday, the United States Senate passed a two-year extension of federal legislation that allows the federal government to fund transportation projects throughout the United States. While the legislation still needs to be passed by the House of Representatives before being signed by the President, the legislation’s passage allows the Senate, in this case led by Senator Barbara Boxer, to set the agenda and not the House of Representatives, controlled by a more conservative breed of politician.
Locally, reaction to the bill’s passage was nearly unanimously positive.
Leading the charge was Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who has re-branded himself nationally as the “transportation mayor” and locally as a leading figure in the call for more rail service for Los Angeles.
“Sen. Barbara Boxer and Sen. James Inhofe showed remarkable bipartisan leadership on this bill,” writes Villaraigosa, praising his Senator and her Republican counterpart for not falling into partisan fighting that has marred the debate in the House of Representatives. “The surface transportation bill passed today by the US Senate will save or create 1.8 million jobs nationwide. The America Fast Forward component can create up to 1 million additional jobs across the country.”
Advocacy groups are giving the passage a big thumbs up as well. Mobility 21, a group of transportation decision makers in Southern California, and Move L.A., the group pushing the rail expansion agenda in Los Angeles, have each sent out emails encouraging people to write to Congress to get the Senate bill passed. A copy of the letter from Move L.A. is available at the end of this post.
Taking a more specific tack, the local office of Transportation for America (T4A) praised not just the Senate passage of the bill, but also Senator Boxer for working until the deadline to make sure that the Senate passed as progressive a bill as possible. Last week, T4A led a group of transportation reform groups in thanking Senator Boxer for working with Senators Ben Cardin and Tom Cochran to draft and accept an amendment that made it easier for municipalities and local planning groups to fund bicycle, pedestrian and other progressive transportation projects. If you’re interested, you can read the letter, here.
Perhaps of greatest interest to Southern Californians was the fate of the “America Fast Forward” agenda in the Senate bill. America Fast Forward is the initiative, spearheaded by Mayor Villaraigosa, to change federal funding formulas to benefit communities that are already investing in their own transportation infrastructure needs. The Senate bill embraces some of the policy reccomendations of America Fast Forward, including the ten-fold expansion of the low-interest TIFIA loan program which would allow Los Angeles Metro to begin frontloading transit projects funded by the 30-year sales tax, Measure R.
“If the House passes a transportation bill with America Fast Forward, local transit agencies will be able to compete for $2 billion in low-interest TIFIA loans,” writes Villaraigosa. “In Los Angeles, this will allow us to create 166,000 jobs now by accelerating bus and rail projects.”
Stay tuned to Capitol Hill Streetsblog for all the breaking news on the transportation bill and other happenings in the nation’s Capital.
Move L.A. letter to supporters asking them to contact their Congressman:
DEAR FRIENDS,PLEASE TELL THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES TO FOLLOW THE SENATE LEAD AND SUPPORT TRANSPORTATION BILL WITH AMERICA FAST FORWARD PROGRAM.Please call each of these members of the House of Representatives and encourage their support for a Transportation Reauthorization Bill that matches the Senate 2-year commitment and includes the expanded TIFIA Loan Program/America Fast Forward.The House is on recess this week until Friday March 16, so the first phone number listed is for the district offices, the latter for their Washington DC offices for when they return on March 19. Let them hear from you while back in California this week if possible.Sample Message:Hello, my name is _____ and I live in Los Angeles County. I’m calling to tell Congressmember _____ to support a House Transportation Reauthorization Bill that maintains current transportation funding levels, expands the TIFIA loan program that will help make 30-10 possible, just as the US Senate has done. Thank you!Thank you friends for your continued support and efforts!The team at Move LA.