For over a year now, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has been spearheading a "30/10" initiative, designed to accelerate the construction a range of urgently needed transit projects (mostly rail transit lines). The key word is accelerate, not fund. The projects are already funded, but on a 30-year timeline. The 30/10 proposal would deliver the projects in 10 years.
The idea begins with Measure R, a 30-year sales tax increment approved by Los Angeles County voters in 2008 to fund a large package of rail transit improvements, including the Wilshire subway to the westside. Villairagosa wants the Federal government to create a mechanism to bond this revenue so that it can be spent in one decade instead of three.
Well, you can only get Congress interested if the same idea can be applied in many places, so predictably the Mayor and Metro are now presenting America Fast Forward, a national campaign to create a similar mechanism for any urban region that has already put funded projects in place. Los Angeles Metro's blog Source covers it here, the Los Angeles Times's Tim Rutten opines here. Here's a puffy PDF.
Because it relies on Federal financing rather than spending, and because the funding sources are local tax streams that are relatively stable, it's an approach that could potentially succeed even in lean times.
In a tweet, Cap'n Transit asked me: Could it be used to build highways? Yes, it looks like the same mechanism could be used, in theory, to fund any locally supported infrastructure. I hope it will be constrained to transportation, and if it were constrained to voter-approved funding streams like Los Angeles's Measure R it could well usher in a new era of these measures, in which most voters could vote up or down on a set of plans knowing that if passed, all of them would be built and running in just ten years, soon enough to affect most voters' lives.