"Senator Dianne Feinstein is supporting this project, saying it could become a national model," Villaraigosa said in a Bloomberg Television interview.
Villaraigosa has drawn support for his plan from both of California's U.S. senators, Feinstein and Barbara Boxer. All are Democrats.
He's seeking federal guarantees or loan subsidies to allow borrowing for subway and light-rail construction in the next year, so work can be completed in 10 years instead of 30. Los Angeles County voters passed a half-cent sales-tax surcharge in 2008 to fund transit projects.
"This is a way for cities and counties and states to come with money in hand to invest in jobs and infrastructure, while at the same time partnering with the federal government," Villaraigosa said.
The initiative will create jobs, the mayor said.