That bureaucrats at Metro could get Congress to restructure a hugely popular federal program and provide a massive funding increase was beyond ambitious; it was preposterous. Plus, who had the raw ambition, legislative prowess and personal clout – not to mention the free time – required to jet back and forth to D.C. to make it happen?

Term-limited and hungry to establish a national profile, L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa stepped forward, immediately rebranding the 30/10 Initiative as a national lobbying campaign called America Fast Forward. He won over his colleagues at the U.S. Conference of Mayors, nearly all of whom represented cities facing infrastructure funding challenges of their own. He made frequent trips to Capitol Hill to visit the leadership of both the AFL-CIO and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Both organizations ultimately endorsed America Fast Forward, undoubtedly encouraged by the mayor’s tremendous job-creation projections.

He also visited and secured unqualified support for his plan from the pivotal transportation policymakers on Capitol Hill, Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., chairman of the House Transportation Committee, and Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., Environment and Public Works Committee chairwoman. In the end, America Fast Forward was not only included in the final legislation, but at twice the funding level Villaraigosa requested.

When asked recently about when Metro plans to begin submitting TIFIA applications, the director of federal affairs answered, “Immediately.” The race for billions in low-interest TIFIA loans is about to begin and thanks to Measure R and the mayor’s efforts in Washington, the county is flush with cash and the rules of the game have been changed to benefit Los Angeles. Some have even taken to calling Villaraigosa, “America’s Transportation Mayor.”

With the head of the Transportation Department, Ray LaHood, having already announced his departure if President Obama wins a second term, one wonders if Villaraigosa’s next title might be “America’s Transportation Secretary.”

Michael S. Wojnar is a senior adviser on transportation and infrastructure policy at McKenna Long & Aldridge, a law firm with offices in downtown Los Angeles. He also is a former transportation policy staffer on Capitol Hill.

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