In a history-setting move, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority board voted Thursday to approve a $298 billion, 30-year plan to reduce traffic congestion and improve public transit in the "megalopolis of gridlock."
The Long Range Transportation Plan -- which includes the most funding ever set aside for transportation projects in Los Angeles County -- includes a Westside subway extension, the San Fernando Valley's Orange Line busway and various Valley freeway improvements.
The plan comes as the county expects to face unprecedented growth, with a current population of 10 million expected to grow by 3 million over the next three decades.
"It was a historic vote," said Metro board member and county Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky. "It's the first time in the post-Measure R era that the MTA has approved a long-range transportation plan. The priorities have been set consistent with what people voted for 11 months ago."
Villaraigosa urged members of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce to lobby the local congressional delegation to back the Subway to the Sea. Ultimately the approved plan included funding to extend the subway at least to Westwood, with the remaining portion to Santa Monica listed as a desired project, but one without funding for now.
Fourteen members of the Southern California delegation this week sent a letter to the Metro board protesting the plans for the Westside subway, saying it should go for a number of other projects -- a view the mayor said is shortsighted.
"Five different projects means we will get $5 million here, $5 million there," Villaraigosa said.
The mayor wants to get an advance from the federal government to cover the $40 billion expected from Measure R over the next 30 years to allow subway construction to be completed in 10 years.
During Thursday's hearing, Fred Ortega, press deputy to U.S. Rep. Judy Chu, D-El Monte, said the county is the nation's largest and most congested region, yet receives less federal funding for transit projects than other areas.