Metro officials and many business and labor leaders are anxiously awaiting some big news: Rep. John Mica (R-Florida) is scheduled on Thursday to release an outline of his version of the next multiyear federal transportation spending bill.
Why is that a big deal? Because Metro and many others are hoping it will seek to make America Fast Forward the law of the land in order to speed up construction of big transit projects.
That’s why it is not surprising that a group calling themselves the Los Angeles Coalition for the Economy and Jobs have today released a letter and statement to Congressional leaders asking them to include AFF in the bill. Excerpt from the letter:
This plan would reduce traffic congestion and vehicle emissions, improve mobility, generate more than 300,000 private sector jobs (thousands immediately), and encourage strong and sustainable community development throughout the nation.
America Fast Forward would better leverage limited federal resources, just like the Race to the Top has done for education, but with a much lower cost to the federal government. Today, the federal government is asked to pay as much as 80 percent of the costs for local transportation projects. America Fast Forward only requires about 20 percent federal funding.
Los Angeles is among the communities that would benefit…America Fast Forward would benefit other communities as well. Cities like Charlotte, Denver, Minneapolis-St. Paul and Salt Lake City already have agreed to pay much larger shares of their public transit costs in return for federal funding mechanisms that would accelerate construction.
Metro wants to use AFF to accelerate the building of the 12 transit projects funded by Measure R, the sales tax increase approved by 68 percent of L.A. County voters in 2008. Example: AFF could mean the Westside Subway Extension getting to Westwood in the next decade or so; otherwise it is scheduled to arrive there in, gulp, 2036.
Among those who have signed the letter are some heavy hitters in the region. Among them: Russell Goldsmith, the chairman and CEO of City National Bank; Maria Elena Durazo, executive secretary-treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor; Mike Donnelly, president of Ralphs Grocery Company; Tim Leiweke, president and CEO of AEG; George Kieffer, a partner in the law firm Manatt, Phelps & Phillips; Gary Toebben, president and CEO of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce; Elise Buik, president and CEO of the United Way of Greater Los Angeles, and; James A. Thomas, president, chairman and CEO of Thomas Properties.
That’s just a partial list. I think it shows how seriously leaders here are taking the need to drastically improve the local transit system in the near-term future. To put it another way, the inability at times to get around the region in some kind of timely fashion is bad for business.
It’s also worth considering that the business community has traditionally been aligned with the Republican Party, which currently controls the House and which has vowed to drastically cut federal spending on many things, transportation included. As we’ve reported before on The Source, the majority of Americans are living in urban areas. It’s no secret that transit systems across America are lacking or need modernization. Whether Congress wants to do something about it, well, that remains to be seen.