Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and other local officials on Wednesday urged the federal government to use transit projects to stimulate the economy while modernizing the nation's traffic systems.

Testifying during a field hearing of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Villaraigosa presented a six-point initiative that he said has received bipartisan support.

It is part of an effort called "America Fast Forward," which was developed by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and calls for increased federal funding for transit programs.

Villaraigosa, who is scheduled to become president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors this year, also presented a letter signed by 60 mayors from across the country urging Congress to increase transportation funding.

"We understand, at a time of unprecedented deficits and debts, that we simply must do more with less," the letter said. "This means we must find ways of maximizing limited federal dollars. There is a need for innovative financing strategies to leverage federal resources."

For his part, Villaraigosa has been lobbying for approval of a "30-10" proposal, in which the federal government would allocate $40 billion to allow 30 years of transportation work to be done in 10 years.

The mayor's six-point proposal asks the federal government to triple its commitment on loans to local jurisdictions, increase the amount of money available for leverage and expand the types of programs eligible for funding.


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Los Angles voters have approved three separate sales tax measures over the years, amounting to 1.5 cents, to help fund transportation programs.

"In the current fiscal year, our voter-approved taxes will generate $1.8 billion in revenue that we are using to build, operate and maintain a multi-modal transportation system," Villaraigosa said.

Supervisor Don Knabe, MTA board chairman, concurred that the federal government needed to change its funding of transportation programs.

"We need to recognize the importance of non-federal investments in transportation - state, local and private," Knabe said. "The voters of Los Angeles County have made the choice to tax themselves to create more mobility for themselves and their families.

"To date, the federal government has largely turned a blind eye to the local leadership shown by our agency and the local taxpayers."

The hearing on the Veterans Administration campus in Brentwood was hosted by Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., who heard from community leaders and government officials about local transportation priorities.