SAN FRANCISCO — The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority unanimously voted to endorse Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s proposal to accelerate the region’s mass-transit capital plan.
The so-called 30/10 transit initiative aims to speed building of a dozen key projects, funded by a 30-year, $40 billion sales tax levy, so they can be completed within the next decade.
The MTA plan is contingent on getting federal support.
The financing for the 30/10 initiative remains a work in progress, but officials say it would require some combination of federal grants, federal loan guarantees, private-public partnerships and municipal market borrowing.
The cost of the 12 projects is estimated at $13.7 billion if they are completed early enough.
“These rail and bus projects will transform Los Angeles from the car capital of the world to a place where more people can get where they need to go quickly and efficiently using transit,” Villaraigosa said. “Support for the 30/10 initiative is deep and wide in Los Angeles County because we have a plan for better transit, green job creation, and clean air.”
Voters in Los Angeles County — the nation’s most populous with 9.8 million residents — voted to approve a half-cent sales tax hike in November 2008 to fund transportation projects.
Thirty-five percent of the estimated $40 billion levy was dedicated to mass transit. The $40 billion estimate was a pre-recession number and is being updated to take account of a decline in taxable sales over the past year.
Villaraigosa’s proposal aims to leverage the 35% that’s dedicated to mass transit to both back sales tax revenue bonds and to garner extraordinary federal support. The mayor testified before Senate Environmental and Public Works Committee last month, requesting extra aid to advance the projects.
U.S. Department of Transportation undersecretary Roy Kienitz told the committee the DOT supported such initiatives, but didn’t say exactly what new aid the Obama administration would push for.
A federal transportation bill that may include new mechanisms to support local transit is in the works but not close to passage.
The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority — known locally as Metro — hopes to garner extra federal support because of the environmental benefits and job creation it would bring, as well as the large local financial commitment to the projects.
A Metro staff report estimates the 30/10 initiative would create 166,000 construction jobs.
The projects, which include a long-sought “Subway to the Sea” for Los Angeles, would eliminate more than 550,000 pounds of pollution and would serve 77 million riders each year, according to estimates.
Accelerating the projects would save $3.5 billion by building before inflation raises construction prices.
It would also allow Metro to take advantage of construction bids coming in 20% or more under budget because of the weak economy.
But the plan would also require Metro to raise money sooner and incur more interest costs.
The authority estimates that it will have $5.8 billion for the projects and need to raise another $8.4 billion.
Among the financing ideas Metro officials are pushing is an unprecedented federal guarantee that would lend the authority the U.S. Treasury’s triple-A rating, reducing interest costs and required coverage ratios for the bonds.
Agency officials are also asking Congress to consider direct interest rate subsidies, federal loans and additional federal grants.
Audrey Dutton contributed to this story.