Detroit area transit authority advances at Michigan statehouse

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 11/28/2012

A package of bills halfway through the Michigan statehouse could soon offer relief from some traffic congestion in the Detroit area.

The Senate voted Tuesday, Nov. 27, to advance a series of bills to the House that would create a regional transit authority in southeast Michigan. Specifically, it would affect Macomb, Oakland, Wayne and Washtenaw counties.

Sponsored by Sen. Bert Johnson, D-Detroit, the main bill – SB909 – would create a new regional transit board to coordinate public transportation in the region. Another bill, SB967, authorizes a rapid transit bus system to be setup for the area.

One more bill, SB911, would require voters in the affected areas to approve funding for the project through an additional vehicle registration tax or a special assessment.

Supporters say something must be done to fix a local transit system that is fragmented. They note that the federal government has indicated that the state could be in line for about $50 million in aid if a regional transit board is created.

Johnson said the system would meet the needs of residents and expand business opportunities.

“As we’ve seen in communities across the country, building an RTA will be a catalyst for job creation, private investment and economic growth,” Johnson said in a statement.

Gov. Rick Snyder previously stated that he supports a regional transit authority in southeast Michigan. He recommends using $250,000 in transportation funds to cover the initial startup costs.

The House Transportation Committee took up the bills for initial consideration Wednesday afternoon.

Johnson told the panel the bill package could be just the beginning of big changes for transportation options in the state.

“If we do this the right way, it will be the opening salvo for mass transit opportunities across the state,” Johnson said.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Michigan, click here.

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