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With Congress in limbo, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder puts promising transportation ideas on the table

27 Oct 2011 | Posted by | 4 Comments | ,

More state and local officials are coming to grips with the fact that they cannot wait for Washington to act on infrastructure investment and repair. After two years of short-term extensions, a new transportation bill may or may not happen in the next six months. From a vantage point closer to their constituents, local leaders of all political stripes see the need for more immediate solutions — and know that the potential impact on the economy is too important to be ignored because of partisan squabbles.

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder (pictured at right), a Republican elected in 2010, is one of those leaders. And his new $1 billion blueprint for the state’s infrastructure, released earlier this week, does a commendable job of ditching ideological gestures in favor of common sense.

One of the more ground-shifting components of Snyder’s plan is his preference for rapid bus service in the Detroit area to complement and expand on the Woodward light-rail line already in the pipeline. As the Detroit Free Press discussed in an editorial this morning, it is likely that some will dismiss bus service as inferior to rail. That distinction is for Michiganders to decide, but Snyder’s willingness to consider a medley of transportation options should induce a healthy discussion.

He’s also willing to discuss revenue, which remains the most major hold-up in Congress. Under Snyder’s proposal, voters would get to decide at the local level whether to raise vehicle license fees by $40. Allowing for local debate and deliberation would likely increase the chances of new revenue being secured.

Snyder would also shift Michigan’s current gas tax to a levy as percent of the price per gallon, rather than a flat fee, a shift that is expected to increase overall receipts.

The additional revenue from both of these measures would fund road repair and public transportation, including enhanced bus and rail service in Detroit and its surrounding suburbs.

Now that Snyder has outlined his preferences, it is up the state legislature to make the next move. As the Free Press put it:

The governor has not solved southeast Michigan’s transportation problems. But in laying out a practical plan for providing — and paying for — rapid transit service, he has given leaders a road map to a better transportation future.

Photo courtesy of AnnArbor.com