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Representative Dina Titus announces bill promoting greater local control at Las Vegas event

At a press conference Monday in Las Vegas, Rep. Dina Titus introduced her constituents to her bipartisan bill to give local communities across the country greater access to federal transportation funds.

The Innovation in Surface Transportation Act (HR 4726would set aside a share of each state’s federal dollars for competitive grants that will provide local communities greater access to federal transportation funds that they can invest in innovative projects to help boost local economies.

“It’s about local governments, local entities, business, bicycle groups – everybody coming to the table to decide where the dollars should go,” Representative Titus said at the press conference.

At yesterday’s event, Titus stressed that this bill doesn’t require new money — rather, it just helps existing funds get down to the cities, towns and suburbs where most people live and where constituents can hold local officials accountable for how it is spent to ensure their economies thrive.

“It’s intended to empower state stakeholders who are impacted by state transportation investment decisions, but who aren’t at the table right now,” Rep. Titus said.

The legislation is also sponsored by Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL), who held a similar event last month in Normal, IL.

Local officials Kristin McMillan, president and CEO of the Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce, Clark County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani, and Las Vegas Councilman Steve Ross all endorsed the proposal and attended the event.

As we’ve said before, competition is one way to ensure that money gets spent on the best projects possible — an appealing prospect for many local leaders.

“Another feature I like of competitive grants is that it levels the playing field for midsized urban areas who often lose funding opportunities to their bigger siblings in a state because DOTs just look at population as a starting point to allocated funds and not project innovation and worthiness,” said Lee Gibson, CEO of the Regional Transportation Commission of Washoe County, which is the metropolitan planning organization (MPO) for Reno, NV.

Reps. Davis and Titus have crafted a bill to help the local leaders and organizations who know the most about their communities decide where a small portion of transportation money should be spent — answering one of the most consistent requests we hear from our coalition of local elected leaders, businesses, and chambers of commerce across the country.

“As a former mayor who speaks frequently with local leaders around the country, I can say with confidence that they are more than willing to compete and be held accountable for results, but they need access to resources to meet their communities’ needs,” said Mayor John Robert Smith, chair of Transportation for America and former Mayor of Meridian, Mississippi. “This bill would take a major step toward restoring funding for local needs that was greatly restricted in the 2012 transportation bill, MAP-21,” Mayor Smith said. “Rep. Davis’s and Rep. Titus’s measure will ensure that those closest to the heart-beat of a community have access and opportunity to make decisions on how transportation dollars should be spent, while promoting innovation and efficiency.”

Members of Congress are hearing from their constituents about this bill, and we expect legislators from both parties to jump on board soon and co-sponsor this important piece of legislation.

Send a letter to your Congressman and join our call for action.

Read more coverage of the press conference.