Last-minute push underway for transportation development proposal

By thauckthauck (1228734317|%a, %b %e at %I:%M%p)

It looks like state leaders might pass a bill that would allow for the funding of some of the current transit plans in the Southeast Michigan region. Note the statistics cited by the Governor that highlight the benefits of improved public transportation in Michigan. The original can be found here.

Last-minute push underway for transportation development proposal
Posted by Charles Roltsch, Capital News Service December 05, 2008 11:48AM

LANSING- A bill being pushed in the final days of the 2008 Legislature could help municipalities pay for transportation development.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Marie Donigan, D- Royal Oak, would allow communities to establish a board to raise and oversee funding in the same way cities, such as Denver and Portland, Ore., have done.

It's passed the house and awaits Senate action.

"Cities that have built rapid transit systems have gained thousands of new jobs and billions of dollars in private sector development," said Dan Gilmartin, executive director of the Michigan Municipal League, an Ann Arbor-based advocacy group for cities and villages.

A Transportation Funding Task Force, formed in 2007 by Gov. Jennifer Granholm, said, "A good level of investment in transportation could sustain 126,000 Michigan jobs, attract new businesses and open new global markets for Michigan goods and services. It will yield nearly $15 billion in other economic benefits for all sectors of the Michigan economy."

Donigan said her bill would let local governments expand mass transit when the state can't. "They don't have to rely on state funding and it allows for more monetary resources to contribute."

Donigan said cities and villages could raise money through increased taxes or private investment, but projects would likely pay for themselves through increased property tax revenue.

Michigan is losing up to $1 billion a year in matching federal funds by not spending state money on transportation, according to the task force.

Her bill had met opposition from county leaders, said David Worthams, a legislative associate at the league. "They objected over their lack of say in the transit authorities and that they couldn't opt out," he said. "It's a tool that's inappropriate for the county level. Counties benefit but it's better suited on a local level."

Tom Hickson, director of legislative affairs for the Michigan Association of Counties, said it supports the bill in its current form. "The disagreement came when Donigan tried to amend the bill to strip away the tax increase from the counties," Hickson said.

Worthams said many current and future projects around the state could the proposed legislation for necessary funding. A bus line expansion in Grand Rapids, a light rail line from Detroit to Ann Arbor and the Woodward light rail project in Detroit could all use the new system to raise funds, Worthams said.

Donigan, who was reelected in November said she will reintroduce the bill in 2009 if it doesn't pass before the session ends.

Donigan said, "This bill ultimately allows local, state and private forces to work together to create a dynamic transportation system."

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