CHICAGO - On their first day back for a lame-duck session, Michigan senators Tuesday passed a package of bills to create a bond-issuing regional transit system in the four-county Detroit region.
Supporters, including Gov. Rick Snyder and local officials, say the proposed Southeast Michigan Regional Transit Authority is crucial to the region’s economic development.
The authority would build a rapid transit bus system along a key Detroit corridor and link the city with its affluent suburbs. The system, which would be funded with a new motor registration fee, would coordinate the area’s two current systems, the Detroit Department of Transportation and the Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation.
Previous legislative attempts to create the authority repeatedly failed. The five-bill package now heads to the House.
“After decades of stalled attempts, characterized by bitter partisanship and territorial disputes, I am pleased to say we are closer than ever to achieving the goal of building a functional mass transit system, competing for federal transit dollars and bringing southeastern Michigan into the 21st Century,” Sen. Bert Johnson, a Democrat from Detroit, said in a statement.
The main measure, Senate Bill 909, would create the authority and a 10-member board. It would allow the authority to issue revenue bonds payable solely from the revenue of the transit system. It passed 22-16.
The legislation allows Macomb, Oakland, Washtenaw and Wayne Counties to seek voter approval for a new car registration fee to fund the transportation system.
The authority would craft a regional transportation plan, receive state and federal dollars, and implement a new rapid transit system.
It would also advance a separate, largely privately funded plan to build a streetcar line along a Detroit thoroughfare. Private donors have been pushing for the project for years, and U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said earlier this year that the creation of a regional authority is necessary to win federal funds.