Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s $1.5-billion initiative to fix crumbling streets in his final months in office would also cover a backlog of other maintenance projects, like trimming tens of thousands of trees.
According to documents circulated by the mayor’s office, Villaraigosa’s L.A. Road Works plan would include trimming an estimated 75,000 trees, ripping out 3,750 tree stumps and planting an equal number of replacement trees.
Funds for the tree trimming would be drawn from $150 million in transportation funds now earmarked for street repairs, city officials said Monday. Those outlays would be in addition to $750 million Villaraigosa hopes to borrow using 27 years of revenue from Measure R, a voter-approved sales tax.
“If we’re going to flood a certain area with public works resources, it makes sense that while we’re there, we should fix the sidewalks and trim the trees,” said Matt Szabo, Villaraigosa’s deputy chief of staff.
Councilwoman Jan Perry called the continually evolving proposal “not smart” policy, and voiced fears about saddling the city with $650 million in interest payments. Others said the proposal relies on long-term borrowing to pay for work that should be routinely included in the city budget.
But Councilman Paul Koretz said completing the mayor’s plan would show that the city — at least for a moment — has its “act together.”
“That’s an exciting thing,” he said.
Villaraigosa’s team has spent two weeks briefing elected officials on the draft proposal. About 1,500 miles of streets would be repaired within two years, said Jaime de la Vega, who runs the Department of Transportation.
That timeline worried Richard Little, director of USC’s Keston Institute for Public Finance and Infrastructure Policy. “Putting in place a good program that is affordable and people have faith in is a lot more important than just doing it for the sake of speed,” he said.
About 225 miles of major streets would be repaired with “slurry seal,” a top coating that typically lasts seven years, city officials said. Those repairs would be paid for using money available without borrowing, de la Vega said.
Longer-term work, such as road resurfacing and reconstruction, would be paid from the $750 million in bonds. That work lasts from 17 to 30 years, city officials said.