Against the backdrop of the Metro Green Line station and Los Angeles International Airport less than two miles away, Congresswoman Jane Harman and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa joined union members and transportation officials for a press conference Monday, May 17th to drum up support for a transit plan by the mayor that would accelerate mass transit initiatives already in the works.

The late singer Curtis Mayfield’s ballad “People Get Ready” and the song “Love Train” by the 1970s soul band The O’Jays provided the soundtrack for the “30/10” rally at the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) — Century Regional Maintenance Station in Westchester.

The conference focused on an initiative by Villaraigosa that seeks to push forward 12 light rail and mass transportation projects in ten years instead of 30.

“With 30/10, we can build the rail connection to LAX and 11 other projects in ten years,” the mayor told the cheering crowd. “By building faster we can save money, improve air quality, reduce traffic, and efficiently transport people to LAX, whether for travel or for their jobs at the region’s economic engine.”

Harman pledged to support Villaraigosa in Congress by securing additional federal funding.

Westside projects included in the plan are the Green Line extension to Westchester near LAX, the Crenshaw Corridor station to Aviation and Century boulevards and Aviation and Imperial Highway in Westchester, and the extension of the Exposition Light Rail Transit Line, known as the Expo Line, to Santa Monica.

The congresswoman shook hands with union members and business leaders before taking the podium.

“It was a great idea of our mayor to use our tax revenues as a basis for getting federal funds here fast and expediting the buildout of mass transit and clean transit in 30 years instead of ten years,” Harman said.

Harman said she would speak to the transportation and infrastructure committee in Congress when she returned to Washington to encourage them to move the process forward to provide federal dollars to the “30/10” campaign.

The congresswoman, who is running for reelection this year, made light of the difference in tone and atmosphere in Washington, D.C. and the rally in Los Angeles.

“It’s much more fun to be here than in Washington,” Harman, an eight-time incumbent congresswoman who represents Venice, quipped. “Here, we get things done.”

Move L.A Executive Director Denny Zane credited Villaraigosa and Harman with expediting the light rail and mass transit projects that have already begun.

“We’re glad that you all could be here today,” said Zane, a former Santa Monica city councilman. “We’re here to help make sure that the Measure R transit program is done in ten years.”

Los Angeles County voters overwhelmingly approved Measure R in 2008. The mass transportation effort will provide approximately $40 million for light rail projects over 30 years through a half-cent sales tax.

Edgar Saenz, who is campaigning for the 53rd Assembly District seat currently held by Ted Lieu, attended the rally and also supports the mayor’s accelerated transportation plan.

“I support the Measure R 30/10 program because I don’t want to wait the rest of my life for light rail at LAX. It’s visionary and it’s our very own stimulus package,” Saenz, a former deputy to Rep. Maxine Waters who worked on LAX-related matters, told The Argonaut. “The projects under Measure R, of which the Green Line to LAX is one, will create more than 200,000 construction jobs and pump $32 billion back into the local economy. As residents, we’ll get the benefits of better transit and a stronger economy.”

The 30/10 rally brought together coalitions that are not generally partners in many endeavors: environmentalists and businesses leaders.

“It’s time to get people back to work by building a sustainable transit network,” Villaraigosa said.

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