March 1, 2010 - From the February, 2010 issue

Villaraigosa, Boxer Deliver Testimony to U.S. DOT Outreach Event in L.A.

Ray LaHood, secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation, and Senator Barbara Boxer (D-California) were two of the distinguished guests on hand at a U.S. DOT outreach event held in Los Angeles in February. In order to help reprioritized the agenda for federal investment in transportation infrastructure in the years to come, TPR/MIR is pleased to present the following excerpts from the presentation of Senator Boxer, who solicited feedback on MAP 21, the transportation bill reauthorization, followed by a speech by L.A. City Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who discusses his transportation agenda, including the recently proposed 30/10 plan.

Barbara Boxer

Ray LaHood:...I came into this job on January 23. Prior to it being confirmed by the Senate, I met with Senator Boxer and one thing that she emphasized to me was the importance of infrastructure, the importance of transportation, and the importance of what these transportation dollars do to create jobs. I said earlier this morning at another event that we wouldn't be in the position we're in as far as economic recovery if it had not been for the courageous vote of Senator Boxer for a $780 billion dollar economic recovery plan that included $48 billion dollars for transportation projects. As a former member of the U.S. House I can tell you that is a tough vote. We're grateful to you, senator not only for that, but for your leadership, for making sure that transportation needs are being met in California, and for keeping our feet to the fire, and we're also grateful to you for being here.

Senator Boxer:...I'm here with the mayor, and we have the Secretary of Transportation, who Barack Obama was so smart to choose, because for him there's nothing political about what we need to do: for America to be number one, we have to have an infrastructure that works. We know we have to have highways, we know we have to have bridges, they have to be in top-notch shape, and we need transportation and we need transit. I'm going to quickly go through some of the things that the economic recovery act has done for our state because as we go on we're going to see how it is working. So let me give you specifics, not rhetoric, but specifics. So far, the federal government has delivered more than $34 billion in federal economic recovery investments to our state. When we're through, we're going to be over $80 billion. Just to give you a sense of that, the budget for California is about $83 billion this year. So let me reiterate: the economic recovery funds for California are about equal to about one year's budget for our state. We got more than any other state, but we have to make sure that we use those funds wisely.

The funds that I fought very hard for have been the infrastructure funds. Just to give you an idea of these funds, approximately $21 billion have been awarded to the state through grants, loans, and other contracts. $13 billion came in the form of tax benefits, social safety net programs, and entitlements. Transportation investments have really scored: $3.64 billion have been awarded to California for 928 transportation infrastructure programs. We learned today that all of the funds have been obligated so you should applaud yourselves; a lot of you were part of that. California was a big winner and we need to thank Ray LaHood for that. Out of the $8 billion nationwide, we were awarded $2.25 billion for high-speed rail. That means jobs, jobs, jobs, and moving our people into the future.

The new TIGER grant (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery): this week we announced four projects receiving a total of $130 million. Just to give you a breakdown of that, $46 million to complete the replacement of Doyle Drive, the artery that links the Golden Gate Bridge and the Presidio to the city of San Francisco. And the ports of Oakland, Stockton, and West Sacramento will receive $30 million to develop what Secretary LaHood is calling the marine highway system as an alternative to shipping freight by truck. $20 million down at the San Diego border for old time rates of port of entry, and we very much needed those funds. And last, we want to eliminate the major at-grade intersections of two railways in Colton, the Alameda Corridor, $34 million...

....I also quickly want to tell you that on Monday night, when I get back to work in Washington, we're going to vote on a jobs bill that will include two very important infrastructure programs you need to get engaged with, if you can. Senator Feinstein and I were "yes" votes on this, but there was a filibuster. Why would anyone want to filibuster this? There are four pieces of legislation in it. One is a tax credit for people, businesses who hire employees who have been out of work for 60 days-they get great tax breaks for that. The second piece is an extending piece for small business; it gets you that write-off right away, not over five years. The third piece is very key: an extension of the highway trust fund with an infusion of funds to take us through Dec. 31 and to send a message to a million workers that their jobs are safe. Fourth are Build America Bonds...this is a new program created by the Obama Administration that works with states to pay for some of the interest rates on those infrastructure bonds. California has already taken advantage of this to the tune of $5 billion. The funding will be used for transportation, parks, flood control, environmental, and other projects.

Monday night is a big vote and we're very worried about the vote, I'm going to be honest with you. We just simply have to say to colleagues: "Put politics aside for five minutes-five minutes-and let's do the right thing for the American people." Ray LaHood and I come from different political parties, but we are joined at the hip when it comes to rebuilding the infrastructure. You don't have to get into ideology. It's about making sure this country is the greatest country in the world. It's about moving people and goods. It's simply about being competitive and about putting people to work through the private sector. If we can get along on this then it seems to me we ought to be able to get 60 votes.

The very last thing I want to talk about is the reauthorization of the highway bill, which is the subject of a lot of our discussion. As the chairman of the committee that's going to do that in Senate we have a proposal that's going to come forward called MAP 21, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century...We're going to start these hearings in March and some of you will be coming to speak to my colleagues on both sides of the aisle. We think that it has to be a transformational bill. I'm not going to get into it because I want to listen to you, but I just want to say I'm so thrilled to see you all out here, it's a tribute to you all that you care so much, that you want to be involved, that you're not giving up on you're future, you're going to be part of it, and you're going to shape it...

Ray LaHood: Thank you Senator. I think the hardest job in America today is being the mayor of any community. I've had the opportunity many times to meet with Mayor Villaraigosa and he just has a very, very hard job because he's at ground zero in terms of providing people services and doing what's right for people and not really having the resources to do it. The thing I admire most about him is when it comes to infrastructure and transportation, he's willing to go out and sell these things to the people and pass referendums and really persuade people that they will benefit and that's very, very hard to do.

So Mayor, I know how busy you are and we're grateful to you for spending time with us here today to highlight what you think is important for transportation. The mayor and I had a little sit-down prior to coming out here, and I know what his priorities are and I've committed to him that we will work together to help him accomplish his priorities, because he was able to persuade his people in Los Angeles to vote for the money and to step up with their own money and we like that very much.

Mayor Villaraigosa:...Before I begin my remarks let me share a few facts about the city of Los Angeles. I don't have to tell you that we have the ignominious distinction of being the city that has among the dirtiest air quality of any city in the nation and is one of the most congested, usually the most congested, city in the United States of America. We are the car capital of the United States and the world-the home of the addiction to the single passenger automobile. You know all of that. And yet, we're also third overall in transit ridership, with the second largest bus system in the country. We also have the tenth highest rail ridership in the nation. We have the highest number of heavy rail trips per hour of any system in the United States, more than even New York. The recently opened Eastside extension, which was built in a partnership with the federal government, was completed quickly with no lost time accidents. And as Secretary LaHood mentioned and Senator Boxer referred to, we recently approved new local transportation funding through Measure R, which I'll talk more about shortly.


I was at the White House when President Obama said that the worst-case scenario would be a double-digit unemployment rate. I raised my hand and said the worst-case scenario had arrived in Los Angeles; we were already in a double-digit unemployment rate. We're now at 14 percent in the city of Los Angeles. In some parts of the city that number is closer to 20 percent. There are some industries, represented by some of the unions that a present here today, like the construction industry, where the unemployment rate is 35-40 percent. This is a city that has a confluence of very positive things but some negative things as well. A city with emerging rail ridership and a track record of successfully completing federally funded projects, but also a city with a new revenue stream that will create jobs and that the federal government can leverage. I'll talk about that also a bit more in just a moment.

As President Obama, the Congress, and the U.S. Department of Transportation consider the reauthorization, I'd like to share the following thoughts with you. Yes, we need more federal investment in transportation infrastructure. We need more federal investment in transit projects that reduce pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. The federal government needs to reward regions that have invested in themselves, such as Los Angeles County.

As the first vice president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, I was at the White House when the mayors of cities were in tussles with governors over where money for infrastructure should be spent. The case we made was that 88 percent of the economic engine that is the United States of America is in cities. It's not in rural areas or suburban areas; it's in the cities. 82 percent of the population, 84 percent of the unemployment. Cities are the motor force of America's economy.

In this city, the second largest city in the United States of America, when we went to the White House and when we go to the Congress, we go a little differently than some of the states. We have not gone with our hands out empty. Last November of 2008 we passed a historic transportation half penny sales tax: $40 billion to be spent over 30 years-12 transit projects, highway projects, money for local cities-passed in the middle of a recession. The Angelenos here know that there was not unanimity in terms of political leadership and support for that bill. In fact, many of the areas that voted overwhelmingly, their leaders actually voted against and opposed the initiative. I believe that Angelenos voted for the half penny sales tax because they understood that if we're going to address the congestion, air quality, and the need to move people and goods in this city and in this region, we're going to have to do that together, we're going to make the investment-and we did.

We're hoping that as you reconsider the reauthorization, that you look to the fact that we're not only the city with the dirtiest air and the worst traffic in the United States of America, we're also a city and a county that has passed its own investment. This half penny is on top of another penny-a penny-and-a-half for transportation-which is why we've moved from a city that is completely dependant on automobiles to one that, as I said, now has the second largest bus ridership and is the tenth largest in terms of rail ridership in the United States.

The entire board finally unanimously adopted Measure R after a year, as these things take time and sometimes have a delayed reaction to the vote of the people that unanimously voted upon. There was a consensus on what our federal priorities are for Federal Section 5309 (New Starts). They are the Wilshire Subway, otherwise known as the Subway to the Sea, and the Regional Connector, a light-rail project that will connect some of our light rail lines and subways together, increase ridership, and make them more effective. Why were they unanimously agreed to? The reason is because they will move more people, more cost effectively, than any of the various transit projects in the region and they'll compete with any in the United States of America because of their ridership and the cost effectiveness of these projects. We ask that surface transportation reauthorization bill include funding for the Wilshire Subway and the Regional Connector.

At a time in America when there is such a polarized debate about something as simple as creating jobs and at a time when America is suffering an unemployment rate that we haven't seen for a very, very long time-in decades-we have a plan that will work and that we'll be presenting to you shortly that can accelerate the 30-year transportation plan to ten, to triple the number of jobs created in that time. That will create 165,000 construction jobs and over 2,800 permanent operating and maintenance jobs. It will take over 500,000 pounds of pollutants out of the air and, very importantly, it will put the jobs on the ground now, when the unemployment rate is at its highest. We've already introduced this notion to you Mr. Secretary; we're in discussions with Senator Boxer's staff as well. When it's fully presentable, we will make the case for public-private partnership-the city, the private sector, and the federal government-to accelerate jobs to vindicate the will of the people. Oftentimes people will say, "Well what happened to all those transportation projects. I thought I voted for a half penny?" Well they didn't read the fine print and, really, the commercials. Yes we said we'd do it, but we said we'd do it over 30 years. If we can do it in ten, they'll see if happen before their very eyes and they'll begin to see the connection between their investment and the good projects that they were looking for.

I want to say one last thing about congestion pricing. Federal authorization to pursue innovative, demand management revenue solutions, such as congestion pricing, is important. You have to know the debate that happened here and a similar debate that happened in the Congress. The Democrats at the state level-love them, I am a Democrat-said, "We can't do congestion pricing because that's going to hurt the poor." Republicans said, "We can't do congestion pricing because the freeways are supposed to be free. Why should we tax them twice?" And the pragmatists, both Democrat and Republican on the Metro Board, finally were able to get through the legislature and say, "Come on everybody, let's figure out a way to make this work." The fact is that we're making it work here. We have a congestion pricing plan to put a project on the 110 and 10 freeways. We think we can move people, promote folks getting out of their single passenger automobile into carpooling, address the congestion that comes with it, and address the realities. It's not just building infrastructure, freeways, and other transportation projects, it's also getting people out of the single passenger automobile.

With that I want to thank you for allowing me to be here. I want to say to both of you that I look forward to continuing to work with you to address the needs of this region. You'll hear from the many good people who got behind Measure R and are involved in many transportation issues here. There's a connection between public transit and infrastructure and jobs that I think we can all make a win-win. Thank you all very much.


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