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New MI Coalition: Put the Pedal to the Metal for Transportation

April 11, 2011

LANSING, Mich. - A new statewide coalition of organizations that don't always see eye to eye has agreed nonetheless to try to find common ground, in order to increase the state's funding and focus on 21st century transportation. Theirs is not just another special interest group hoping to improve mass transit, according to members of the newly-formed coalition, Transportation4Michigan. They say that, despite some political differences, the group has a shared purpose: to reform transportation policy and create a system of reliable passenger rail and public transit.

In addition to supporting Governor Rick Snyder's proposed transportation budget, coalition spokesman Tim Fischer says, an immediate priority is finding the state funds that would enable Michigan to capture $161 million in federal matching money.

"This money would go to our high-speed-rail corridor between Chicago and Detroit, and then there would be money also to help build out some of our commuter rail projects, that have been in development for so long and need capital in order to be realized."

The coalition includes the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, the Detroit branch of the NAACP, and the Michigan Municipal League, as well as conservation and economic development groups. Spokesman Hugh McDairmid says there are differing viewpoints from each group about topics like the DRIC - the proposed bridge to Canada - but the goal is to focus on common and practical approaches.

"There's as much that we disagree on as we agree on. So, when you talk about DRIC or new revenue, we'll address those issues as they arise. You know, I imagine we'll take a pass on a fair number of them, and the ones that we agree to push on, we will."

Tim Fischer says they also want to look at creating Regional Transportation Authorities, and infrastructure that helps mass transit move people more efficiently while reducing fossil fuel dependence. The coalition plans to analyze how that infrastructure is funded and look for new ways to create revenue.

Amy Miller/Laura Thornquist, Public News Service - MI