Somewhere within a massive transportation bill that Congress approved today is a section that's designed to speed up local transit projects, such as the expansion of L.A.'s subway system. This is the one that the mayor has been pushing for the last two years - a plan that he claims will allow the Westside subway extension to be completed in 10 years instead of 30. The funds would also go toward highways, bus operations and street improvements. From the LAT:
Officials say that $20 billion in federal loans could be made available nationally over the next two years under the legislation. Loans to the MTA would be repaid from the half-penny sales tax increase approved by L.A. County voters in 2008. But the loans alone will not be enough. Villaraigosa has proposed a ballot measure in November to extend the half-penny sales tax beyond 2039 to help fund his initiative. The bill's passage was complicated this year by election year politics, divisions within the House GOP ranks over the level of spending and a ban on lawmakers earmarking funds for transportation projects, a practice that in the past helped win votes but drew criticism after the last big transportation bill, in 2005, was filled with thousands of earmarks, including Alaska's "bridge to nowhere.''
From the NYT:
The transportation legislation extends federal highway, rail and transit programs for 27 months, authorizing $120 billion in spending, financed by the existing 18.4 cents-a-gallon gasoline tax and the 24.4 cents-a-gallon diesel tax, as well as about $19 billion in transfers from the Treasury. That was a retreat for many House conservatives, who had vowed to scale back or eliminate those taxes and shift responsibility to the states.