Last year, the Obama administration followed up with a $15 million grant to renovate the downtown train depot.
Sacramento Rep. Doris Matsui and local transportation officials attempted to double down on that success Monday, pulling LaHood and Rogoff into a meeting to sell them on the idea of funding up to half of a modern streetcar system in Sacramento and West Sacramento, projected to cost upward of $130 million, and another planned for Rancho Cordova's growing office, business and housing areas.
That funding is still at least several years away.
Matsui said she wants to see the region expand light rail and streetcars, connected to Amtrak, buses and eventually high-speed rail, to create a robust integrated regional transit system, with a railyard transit center as hub.
"We are proving after decades of work that Sacramento is serious about building a fully integrated transit network that will ultimately provide seamless connection through downtown, West Sacramento, south Sacramento, Folsom, the airport and every neighborhood in between," Matsui said.
For now, though 25 years after light rail was introduced in Sacramento that network remains spotty.
RT officials last year took a long-delayed first step toward building light rail between downtown and the airport. That line still faces the tough financial and political hurdles of bridging the American River and cutting though Natomas neighborhoods.
RT officials have not yet made a competitive case to the federal government for matching funds.
"We're going to have to go back to local voters to increase local support to (help) build and operate that," RT's Wiley said.
"The feds are not going to give us money to build anything unless we can demonstrate we can easily afford to operate that (line)."
He said the transit agency is looking at November 2014 to go to voters for help on that project.
LaHood took advantage of his Monday visit to California to trumpet the state's work on a high-speed rail system. That project, under fire for its cost, came within one vote of being shelved by the Legislature last year.
LaHood dismissed what he called the "naysayers," saying California remains ahead of the rest of the country in planning for high-speed rail.