LOS ANGELES – Los Angeles Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa today testified before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, chaired by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), on the need for new transportation financing tools, with the Mayor’s 30/10 initiative as a model for federal-local partnership.
“Cites need the federal government to approve a national program of innovative financing tools for transit infrastructure construction. We must spend tax dollars more wisely and leverage the available funding smartly. New partnerships, new financing mechanisms and innovation are essential to building infrastructure in many regions,” said Mayor Villaraigosa.
The Mayor noted that officials from the Cities of Houston, Salt Lake City, Atlanta, and Chicago have indicated that they would benefit from the tools that he proposes.
Senator Boxer made the following remarks during her opening statement at today’s hearing:
“I believe the 30/10 Initiative can serve as a model that can be replicated in many cities and states across this country. As we develop the next comprehensive surface transportation law, we have the opportunity to make changes to programs that will leverage resources to create more jobs, and build the highway and transit systems our communities need faster.”
US Department of Transportation Undersecretary for Policy Roy Kienitz also testified that the model could be a “big win” for the country.
“Regional plans, like the plan for the 30/10 investments, can provide blueprints for much smarter investment decision-making,” said USDOT Undersecretary Kienitz. “Encouraging broad public and private involvement in regional efforts to build tomorrow’s transportation networks could be a big win for the country.”
Senator Boxer, Undersecretary Kienitz and Mayor Villaraigosa discussed possible changes to the Transportation Infrastructure Financing and Innovation Act (TIFIA) that provides federal credit assistance including direct loans for surface transportation projects.
Mayor Villaraigosa advocated for increasing the total funding available through TIFIA and providing greater flexibility for its use to allow financing for more than one project at a time.
In a written statement, Ranking Minority Committee Member Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) echoed the Mayor’s position on TIFIA. Senator Inhofe said, “Another way to leverage non-federal funds is a loan program contained in the current highway program called TIFIA. TIFIA now is very popular and recently received applications for 10 times the amount it can lend. It is used in many situations, including as a component of public-private partnership financing or by states to supplement more traditional financing. Clearly, this is a successful program that must be dramatically expanded.”
In his testimony, Mayor Villaraigosa also urged the creation of a new category of qualified tax-preferred bonds to fund major transportation projects, called Qualified Transportation Infrastructure Bonds (QTIBs).
Because transportation projects typically can take a decade to conceptualize, develop, and build, long-term financing guarantees are essential to help local authorities move projects forward. The pending reauthorization of the surface transportation law was noted as a potential vehicle for the program modifications which could create mechanisms for the 30/10 model.
Following his testimony at the hearing, Mayor Villaraigosa held numerous meetings with members of the Los Angeles delegation and other transportation experts to continue his advocacy for 30/10.