No Time to Rest on Transportation Investment
By Gary Toebben, February 19, 2013
Last year, Congress passed and President Barack Obama signed the first surface transportation reauthorization bill after nine extensions. This legislation, Moving Ahead for Progress in the Twenty-First Century (MAP-21), included a provision known as America Fast Forward (AFF), which was born out of the ingenuity of Los Angeles transportation leadership. Spearheaded by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and the Metropolitan Transportation Agency and championed by the L.A. Area Chamber and Labor, the program expanded theTransportation Infrastructure Finance & Innovation Act (TIFIA) fund tenfold for infrastructure projects nationwide. Locally it helped accelerate Measure R projects including the Crenshaw Transit Corridor line, which received a $549 million TIFIA loan this past October.
The TIFIA enhancement, combined with successful Early Start program funding for the Regional Connector and the Westside Subway, make up two elements of the original 30/10 three-pronged strategy. Last week the Chamber's Executive Committee voted to support the AFF Transportation Bond proposal as the next step. AFF bond legislation would create a tax-preferred bond financing program that would reduce the interest expense of long-term borrowing. This would allow Metro to double the amount of capital investment supportable by Measure R revenues.
The program as proposed would leverage $45 billion in federal bonds over 10 years for large transportation projects and to states for smaller projects selected at their discretion. These bonds could generate 500,000 engineering and construction jobs, jump-start construction of major capital projects, while construction costs are still low, and reduce the federal government’s overall share of funding major projects.
As our federal government struggles with deficits and we look towards a possible collapse of the Highway Trust Fund, innovative ideas like the AFF TIFIA and bond programs are more necessary now than ever.
Join the Chamber for our Accenture Pancakes & Politics Breakfast Speaker Series this Friday, Feb. 22, to hear from Metro CEO Art Leahy on the progress of our local highway and transit projects. Then join us March 11-13 in Washington, D.C. as we advocate for the inclusion of the AFF bond program in the next reauthorization. The success of the first AFF program hinged largely on the broad coalition of regional and national support demonstrated through our ACCESS Washington, D.C.: Los Angeles on the Hill trip. We need your help to continue the momentum.
And that's The Business Perspective.