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Will Washington fund a Los Angeles subway expansion?

A planned Los Angeles subway expansion could cut traffic and greenhouse emissions and give jobs a boost, but Mayor Villaraigosa wants it now, instead of waiting 30 years. He is in Washington Thursday seeking funds to accelerate construction of the 'Subway to the Sea.'

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But proponents say they are not asking for funds outright.

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“We are not looking for a federal handout, but rather just ways to maximize what our voters have already approved,” says Katz.

Some independent analysts applaud the effort.

“I think this falls under the category of, 'it is worth a try," says Jessica Levinson, Director of Political Reform at CGS. “Even if we get a portion of what the mayor is asking for, it could help Los Angeles start on this important transportation project. The money could provide a much needed infusion of capital for a vital public works project.“

She and others note that quality-of-life surveys in Los Angeles find that the public perceives a need to alleviate traffic.

Moreover, the state’s dirty air cost $193 million in hospital and emergency room visits between 2005 and 2007, according to a recent RAND Corp. report. These data also reinforce what the American Lung Association has found since it began grading air quality in all US counties in 1999, and will likely be shown in this year’s State of the Air Report, to be released April 28: California continues to struggle with a serious pollution problem, harming the health and well-being of citizens, and costing the state millions.

“California needs to focus on cleaning up pollution sources like motor vehicle engines and fuels, especially dirty diesel engines, to meet clean air standards, improve health of our citizens, and reduce healthcare costs,” says Jane Warner of the American Lung Association.

Unlike in cities such as Chicago or New York, where public transportation is easily accessible and reliable, in Los Angeles it is primarily the poor who use buses and subway lines, sociologists say. More rail interconnectivity could help break down the walls that separate many of the city’s disparate communities from the affluent West side to the gangland regions of South Central to Korea town.

In his daily blog, Villarairgosa claims his ideas are being well-received from Capitol Hill to the White House.

“Members of Congress showed encouragement and great interest,” he wrote Feb. 26 of his last trip. “They understand what 30/10 means for local jobs – 166,000 of them – local air quality and mobility throughout the county.”