We’re blogging this morning live from the Mobility 21 Conference in downtown Los Angeles, where more than 1,000 public and private sector people in the transportation industry have gathered.
Los Angeles Mayor and Metro Board Chair Antonio Villaraigosa took center stage during the morning’s events with a speech and subsequent news conference calling on President Obama and Congress to invest in the nation’s infrastructure and, specifically, to enact the America Fast Forward legislation to accelerate the construction of Measure R projects through federal loans and other financing.
“Let’s make this as clear as we possibly can,” Villaraigosa said. “Transportation investment equals jobs. It’s a sad commentary on our public debate that such an obvious fact is met with skepticism in Congress.”
The full text of Villaraigosa’s speech is available here [PDF] and following are some highlights:
- Villaraigosa was pleased to see the expansion of the TIFIA loan program — a pillar of America Fast Forward — make it into both the House and Senate transportation bills. But he didn’t mince words in his support for Senator Barbara Boxer’s bill. Her Senate bill would maintain current levels of funding, whereas the House bill would cut grants by nearly one-third. Above all, it’s imperative that Congress not let the gas tax expire with the current transportation bill on September 30th — millions of jobs are at stake.
- The mayor emphasized America’s trillions of dollars in unmet infrastructure needs that must be addressed to keep the U.S. competitive on the world economic stage. He noted that China and other developing countries are spending a far greater percentage of GDP on infrastructure than the U.S., which has been coasting along on investments made by our grandparents’ and parents’ generations.
- Villaraigosa urged President Obama to take the money that was dedicated to building democracy in Iraq and use it to build the schools, roads and infrastructure in the U.S.
- For those wondering about what kind of sway the Mayor has in Washington, he noted that he spoke to President Obama by phone last week and will be seated with First Lady Michelle Obama at the speech in Washington on Thursday in which the President will detail his latest job plan.
- The mayor also noted some of his accomplishments locally, including helping get public transit investment back on the map with Measure R and having all the traffic lights in Los Angeles synchronized by the time he leaves office.