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Mayor Pushing For Measure R Extension to Build 12 Transit Projects in 10 Years

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In tonight's State of the City address at Paramount Studios, Mayor Villaraigosa plans to announce that work is beginning on a sequel to Measure R, the 2008 ballot initiative that raised sales taxes to pay for transit and freeway improvements. The Los Angeles Times reports that Villaraigosa wants to ask voters to approve an "indefinite extension" on the half-cent sales tax, which currently runs out in 2039. An extension would provide a roundabout way to accomplish the goals of the "America Fast Forward" plan, which seeks federal loans guaranteed by future Measure R revenue to advance projects like the Purple Line subway extension (currently, the plan is to build the line in phases as it waits for Measure R money to trickle in). With the Republican-controlled House hamstringing the AFF plan, the extension is the mayor's plan for getting a cash infusion now to build a multitude of projects in the next 10 years.

The Measure R extension could have a drawback in that future unfunded projects (e.g., connecting the Green Line to Metrolink, getting rail to Burbank airport) could be off the table for generations if all the Measure R tax receipts are directed to more current projects like Crenshaw light rail and the subway. It also won't be easy to get Measure R2 on the ballot as "the measure needs a state amendment," according to the Daily News--Assemblyman and Measure R advocate Mike Feuer is drafting the bill--and "It will also again need approval by the county Board of Supervisors and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to qualify for the ballot." If it jumps those hurdles, it will need three-quarters two-thirds of voters to back it, and the LA Times says polls show current support is not quite at that threshold. But Measure R did manage to get on the ballot and pass in 2008, when the economy was already tanking, and by November, the mayor will be basking in the glow of the openings for the Expo Line and the Orange Line extension.

Meanwhile, Measure R2 could bring enormous benefits, according to Metro. A study from the agency found that it would create more than 400,000 jobs, eliminate more than 500,000 pounds of carbon emissions every day, reduce vehicle miles traveled by 191 million, and increase transit boardings by 77 million.
· Villaraigosa wants voters to extend sales tax to fund transit [LAT]
· L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to urge Measure R tax extension in today's State of the City speech [Daily News]
· Metro staff report on Measure R funding potential [The Source]
· Pol Proposes Measure R Extension, Legal Fast Track for Rail [Curbed LA]