12/06/2012 03:24 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2012

Regional Transit Authority For Metro Detroit: Bill Passes In Michigan House

UPDATE: 4:33pm -- While SB 909 passed the House, three related bills are still stalled as Democrats protest right-to-work legislation advanced by the GOP, according to the Detroit News.


House leaders today amassed a coalition to pass legislation to create a regional transit authority for the Metro Detroit area.

It took them three tries, but Senate Bill 909 passed by a 57-50 vote in the Michigan House, after having been approved in the state Senate last week. Gongwer News Service, a Lansing-based subscription newswire, reported that most Detroit Democrats opposed the bill "in part as a protest against the pending right-to-work legislation."

The news service said the House had to stop voting during two previous tries to pass the bill, when it became apparent that they hadn't gathered enough votes to keep it from failing.

Southeast Michigan, home to the city of Detroit, is America's largest metropolitan area without a regional transportation authority (RTA) -- not that supporters of mass transit haven't tried. The Metro Times reports that RTA legislation has been introduced 23 times since the 1970s without any success.

SB 909, if signed by the Governor into law, will establish an authority, while SB 911, SB 912, SB 967 and SB 445 would resolve a number of issues related to zoning, funding and cooperation between different transportation agencies. The authority would be run by a board consisting of two representatives each from Oakland, Wayne and Macomb counties, as well as one member appointed by the Mayor of Detroit. It would also include an appointee of the governor who would not have a vote.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has said that an RTA must be in place before developers of the M-1 Woodward Avenue light rail line can qualify for $25 million in federal funding.

Sen. Bert Johnson (D-Detroit) was one of the sponsors of the legislation package to create an RTA, along with Thomas Casperson (R-Escanaba), Michael Kowall (R-White Lake) and Rebekah Warren (D-Ann Arbor). He told The Huffington Post that he's confident Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder would sign the bill if it passed the final vote in the Senate.

"Mr. Governor's going to get a piece of the legislation or a set of the legislation on his desk that he's going to sign, and we're all going to celebrate and watch this thing move forward," he said.

Flickr photo by Matt Hampel.


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