Update: Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa held a press conference with Sen. Barbara Boxer praising the passing of this bill. To read Patch's latest story on this bill, .
Congress on Friday approved a two-year, $100 billion transportation bill that would help to expedite several major road and rail projects in the Los Angeles area.
The bill, which now goes to President Obama to be signed into law, includes funding for the program known as America Fast Forward, which would speed up the Westside Subway Extension—the expansion of the Purple Line from downtown to Beverly Hills, Century City, Westwood and the Veterans Administration campus.
The bill also increases funding for the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) program from $122 million per year to $750 million in 2013, and to $1 billion in 2014. TIFIA gives cities loans for transportation projects with low interest rates and flexible terms.
In conjunction with the extension of , the half-cent sales tax that will be on the ballot in November, the TIFIA program would help to expedite 12 transportation projects in the Los Angeles area over the next decade, Metro stated on its blog, The Source:
...A Measure R extension plus an expanded federal loan program known as TIFIA would make it possible to build the 12 Measure R transit projects in the next decade or so — instead of waiting until 2039. TIFIA loans could also add $3.7 billion in funding to the Measure R highway program, which is needed because many of the projects are only partially funded by Measure R.
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who traveled to Washington several times to lobby for the transportation bill, issued a statement applauding its passage:
"After one extension after another, Congress finally came together and broke through the gridlock to pass the surface transportation bill. Importantly for Los Angeles, the bill includes America Fast Forward, the innovative, nationwide funding program that grew out of 30/10, our plan to accelerate 30 years worth of transit projects in 10 years...
The passage of America Fast Forward will mean more jobs for Angelenos and will give a significant boost to our plan to accelerate transit projects here in Los Angeles and realize our vision of a 21st century transportation network."
The spending plan passed with rare bipartisan support. The U.S. House approved the compromise plan by a 373-52 vote. The Senate voted 74-19 in favor of the bill, which also extended the federal gasoline tax through September 2014.
Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority Director of Federal Relations Raffi Hamparian said the agency would "move with dispatch" to apply for up to $2 billion in loans to accelerate Metro transit and highway projects.
The bill also includes $3.8 billion in so-called New Starts competitive grants that could be applied to Metro projects.
City News Service contributed to this report.