Los Angeles Roundtable on Job Creation, Transportation Reform and the 30/10 Initiative
August 23, 2010
(Remarks as Prepared for Delivery)

I want to start by thanking Mayor Villaraigosa for convening this meeting, and for welcoming us to his offices for today's roundtable on Job Creation, Transportation Reform and the 30/10 Initiative. I also want to thank the Mayor for his dedication and his leadership on these critical issues.

We have come together here today because we all know that a 21st century transportation system is essential to creating jobs and ensuring future economic prosperity. We must make sure that our existing infrastructure is sound, and plan for future investments that maximize economic development, reduce our dangerous dependence on foreign oil, clean up our air, and strengthen our global competitiveness.

There is a growing consensus that smart investments in transportation are an important part of the solution to the serious economic challenges we are facing.

And that's why we have such a broad coalition joining us here today - business, labor, government, environmental organizations -- who understand that in these difficult economic times, it is more important than ever to look for tools that can stretch the resources we have. We must get the maximum benefit from every transportation dollar while we invest in our future.

Right here in Southern California, the residents of Los Angeles County are providing new thinking and leadership when it comes to building the kind of city we all want to see for everyone in LA. What is happening here is also providing a model for similar approaches across the country.

In November of 2008, Los Angeles County approved a ½ cent sales tax for transportation, known as Measure R. It was a statement that the people of this region are willing to help pay for a transportation system that they need now.

This measure will provide up to an estimated $40 billion over the next 30 years, including approximately $13 billion for transit projects throughout the county.

The 30/10 Initiative would speed up delivery of the transit projects expected to be funded with Measure R so they can be funded over 10 rather than 30 years, hence the name "30/10 initiative."

It will accelerate projects, add thousands of jobs and improve LA's transit system. It will also ease congestion and reduce dangerous pollution, leading to healthier families across the region.

As Chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee in the Senate, one of my goals for today's meeting is to hear from you about the ways the federal government can reform our transportation laws to help Los Angeles implement the 30/10 vision - and help other cities and communities across California and the nation who make similar commitments to investments in transportation infrastructure.

Earlier this year, I asked U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood for his support, and he responded immediately. He confirmed his commitment to the 30/10 initiative and agreed to work together on expanding this model in the upcoming transportation bill. You could not ask for a better partner when it comes to forward-thinking transportation issues.

As we develop the next comprehensive surface transportation law, we have the opportunity to make changes in current programs to leverage resources to create more jobs, and build the transit systems, roads, and other facilities our communities need faster.

For example, we have been looking at potential changes to part of the existing transportation law called the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act -- also known as TIFIA.

TIFIA helps communities leverage their transportation resources through credit assistance and other programs. According to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), every dollar made available through TIFIA can mobilize up to $30 in non-federal investment. That's the kind of tool we need more of. TIFIA has been a successful program, but improvements are needed if it is going to achieve the kind of transformative results we all want to see moving forward.

Right now, TIFIA program funding is authorized at only $122 million per year, which translates into about $1 billion in credit assistance. But in Fiscal Year 2010 alone, the FHWA received 39 Letters of Interest seeking over $12.5 billion in credit assistance. These dollars so effectively mobilize investments that it makes sense to consider allocating additional resources for this program. At the same time, we need to ensure that these additional investments achieve the broad range of benefits we are looking for.

I look forward to your perspectives on the best ways we can reform our national transportation policy so we can best serve the needs of local communities across the country.

So, your ideas, your advice, and your engagement are vital ingredients as we move ahead.

Mr. Mayor, the panel of experts and stakeholders you have assembled today is truly impressive, and I am looking forward to a productive discussion today.

Again, thank you, Mr. Mayor, for co-chairing this event with me.