Transit Projects Would Drive Job Market

Transit Projects Would Drive Job Market

OP-ED By MICHAEL KELLY Monday, July 4, 2011

The op-ed by Tim Cavanaugh in the June 13 issue of the Business Journal (“Villaraigosa’s 30/10 – Show Me the Money”) was dead wrong.
The America Fast Forward plan (formerly 30/10) to speed up transportation funding is a legitimate solution to improve L.A.’s roads and railways, and revitalize our economy.

Right now, one-third of our country’s major roads are in poor condition and nearly 14 million Americans are jobless. Americans need jobs and America needs better transportation infrastructure. The only tangible plan to address these two pressing concerns and transform them into a mutually beneficial co-existence is America Fast Forward.

Whether you drive, bike, bus or ride the train from one location to the next, the sorry state of our transportation infrastructure affects you. And with our national unemployment rate still hovering around 9 percent as we climb our way out of the Great Recession, our aging infrastructure continues to crumble. Thankfully, we have one solution to address these twin problems. Why not begin construction now and allow our local economies to immediately reap the benefits of higher-paying jobs and completed infrastructure projects at a much lower cost? Better yet, why not do it without adding to the nation’s debt problems?

America Fast Forward is a collaboration that promises to generate more than 1 million jobs and build our country’s infrastructure faster and more efficiently, putting people back to work now. It is a national bipartisan effort to improve the way we finance transportation projects so cities and states can access capital faster and build more efficiently.

Some may argue that this is just another politically motivated, misguided plan that will simply spend more money rather than actually jumpstart our economy. But this plan is not about politics. It is firmly rooted in our current economic needs. It recognizes the current plight of the working public. It’s about creating jobs and advancing needed transportation infrastructure projects at a time when we need them most.
We are not asking for a government handout. We have raised the local capital needed to get us started. In Los Angeles, for example, residents overwhelmingly backed Measure R, a Los Angeles County-wide half-cent sales tax increase to pay for a historic infrastructure upgrade to the local transit network. Now we need Congress to help expedite this plan.

Democratic and Republican Senate leaders are already offering solutions to reauthorize our federal transportation financing tools while empowering cities to strategically leverage local funds with federal dollars to create jobs now. Their support for America Fast Forward will create good living-wage jobs while protecting our hard-earned taxpayer dollars.

Proven and successful

America Fast Forward utilizes a number of innovative financing tools that do not add to our nation’s debt problems. The proposed legislation expands the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act, a proven and successful program. Since the act’s inception in 1998, the U.S. Department of Transportation has supported projects with a total value of more than $30 billion for less than $1 billion.

Expanding the act would enable America Fast Forward to become a reality for more than a million Americans who are ready to get back to work, building a 21st century transportation infrastructure on a faster time line. AFF will create 1 million good-paying private-sector jobs nationwide, create $51 billion in worker income, and generate $158 billion in total economic output and $10.6 billion in new federal tax revenue. It’s time we empower cities like ours and put private industry in the position to rebuild America — faster, better, smarter.

The fact is that this plan makes so much sense that unlikely allies have joined forces. Sen. Barbara Boxer, a Democrat and chairman of the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee, and John Mica, a Republican and chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, are both on board. Thomas Donohue, chief executive of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, both agree that AFF is exactly what our country needs to create jobs and rebuild our economy using innovative transportation finance tools.

This is a plan that recognizes our tax dollars are best spent in and by our own communities. It empowers localities to use forward-looking financing tools to prioritize the projects that will best lead to real job creation right now. It’s time for Congress to press the button on America Fast Forward.

Michael Kelly is the executive director of the Los Angeles Coalition for the Economy and Jobs.