Achille Bianchi

Governor signs transportation legislation

DETROIT — Governor Rick Snyder signed four bills into law in Detroit Wednesday including legislation that establishes both a regional transportation authority (RTA) and lighting authority; a law helping Eastern Market secure funds and grants; and a law that will help the construction of a new sports arena.

Snyder signed the bills at D:hive in downtown Detroit against a backdrop of picketers protesting Right-to-Work legislation.

Snyder said all of the bills, combined with the new international bridge, are going to be great catalysts for economic development in Michigan and they represent billions of dollars in infrastructure investment as well as the creation of tens of thousands of jobs.

"This legislation sets a framework for short-term recovery and long-term growth," Snyder said.

Snyder said the sports complex will be a critical connector for Midtown and Downtown Detroit and the establishing a lighting authority is a step towards addressing fundamental public safety in Detroit.

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing praised the regional efforts of southeast Michigan for the RTA and the lighting authority, saying they are necessary in order to turn on some of the city's nearly 88,000 streetlights. Bing said the lighting grid will be expanded in phases and will start in 2013.

The establishment of the RTA allows southeast Michigan to build a regional bus rapid transit and qualifies the public-private M-1 streetcar project for $25 million in federal funding.

Picketers protest in Detroit

The Authority's board would consist of representatives from Oakland, Macomb, Wayne and Washtenaw Counties, as well as a representative appointed by the governor and would able to levy taxes in order to finance transportation projects.

While the RTA legislation had statewide support from legislators in 2012, only one Democrat voted for it in the lame-session in early December. During the vote, Democrats withheld their votes in protest to controversial Right-to-Work legislation, but the bill still had enough GOP support to pass.

Regardless of divisive legislation, "we have an alignment like we haven't had for years," Bing said. "We're pretty much on the same page … and things are starting to develop."

"We found a reason to unite on something that has divided this region for decades," said Sen. Bert Johnson (D - Detroit). "Regional transit is the one panacea in politics, if there is one, that brings so many partnerships that we can't help but be successful. It's time to get back on the trolley."

Want to see more photos from Wednesday's bill signing? Click here!

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