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LaHood: Metro Detroit, state need to move on regional transit authority

US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood was in Detroit for the tenth time Monday totalk about the region’s mass transit future.

LaHood met with Governor Snyder, Mayor Dave Bing, and state lawmakers, and again made clear that the federal government is willing to put money into a regional transportation authority (RTA) for Detroit.

But Lansing hasn’t acted on bills to create an RTA to run that system.

LaHood says every other major metro area in the country has such an authority—and Detroit needs one too for the federal dollars to flow.

“Every other place, people have come together, worked together, set aside their own agendas and their own egos, for the good of the people," LaHood said. "This is about the people.

"We're willing to put millions of dollars on the table, if the communities can get [their] together."

Both LaHood and Governor Snyder said there's been "some progress" on the issue during the course of LaHood's visits to Detroit.

Snyder is urging Republican leaders in the House and Senate to finally bring the bills up for a vote in the post-election lame duck session, after both parties have had a chance to caucus on it.

But, "I don't really see this as a partisan issue," Snyder said. "Let's show that Metro Detroit--the whole region--can come together with strong support, that will then make it easy for the rest of the Michigan legislators to get on board and say, 'Let's move forward.'"

The political dynamics holding up the RTA in Lansing appear to be the same as those that have blocked Detroit from building a regional transit system for the past four decades.

Democratic city lawmakers fear giving up control over the city's bus system and accompanying funds. And suburban, largely Republican lawmakers don't want to pay into a regional system that many of their constituents oppose.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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