Tuesday, October 16, 2012

LaHood: Detroit regional organization desired

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Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood visited Detroit Monday with a suggestion that a Southeastern Michigan Transportation Authority might be better equipped to land federal funding for transportation projects, including assistance with a much-debated streetcar project.

LaHood met with Detroit Mayor Dave Bing and Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder in a private meeting. Snyder has been an advocate of a regional transportation authority, something LaHood noted as he claimed Detroit is the sole major U.S. city bereft of any such organization.

"We're prepared to put on the table millions of dollars if this community can get its act together," local media quoted LaHood saying. "We are very close." But federal support for the current $137 million streetcar plan backed by local private interests isn't yet assured. Last June LaHood withheld a $25 million federal grant that had been targeted for a 9.3-mile, $400 million light rail line.

"I think what is important from a Detroit perspective, is we need to stop the infighting," Bing said. "It's OK to have disagreement but if we're going to move this project forward we can't think that it's going to be perfect." Bing said he seeks legislation to create a transportation authority for Wayne, Oakland Macomb and Washtenaw counties.

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