Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Sen. Barbara Boxer have announced the passage of a transportation bill that could have a big payoff for Los Angeles County transportation projects.
Boxer, who chairs the Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee, co-authored the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act, which enjoyed rare bi-partisan support.

The bill’s passage last week was a significant political victory for Villaraigosa. He lobbied hard on behalf of more than 200 mayors across the country for the federal lending program called America Fast Forward, which will allow local governments to compete for low-interest financing to fund infrastructure projects.

“Today we celebrate this common-sense investment in America’s future,” Villaraigosa said. “The surface transportation bill will put 3 million Americans back to work building our country’s transportation backbone.”

Villaraigosa will travel was at the White House on Friday, when President Barack Obama was scheduled to sign the bill. The legislation authorizes more than $100 billion in spending on highway, rail and transit programs for 27 months, via a 39-month extension of the 18.4 cent-per-gallon federal gas tax and 24.4 cent-per-gallon federal diesel tax.

The House of Representatives approved the compromise plan by a 373-52 vote. The Senate voted 74-19 in favor of the bill, which includes loan guarantees that could lead to as much as $17 billion in competitive loans for transportation projects across the country.

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s director of Federal Relations, Raffi Hamparian, said last week the agency would “move with dispatch” to apply for up to $2 billion in loans to accelerate Metro transit and highway projects. Those projects include the Westside Subway Extension, the Crenshaw Line and the transit project through the Sepulveda Pass.

The bill also includes $3.8 billion in so-called New Starts competitive grants that could be applied to Metro projects.

During a morning news conference near an on-ramp to the San Diego (405) Freeway, Villaraigosa thanked Boxer for her work advocating for passage of the bill.