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Stimulus money should go to intercity transportation

Thursday, February 26, 2009 | 10:00 a.m. CST

Every Tuesday and Friday, from when I was about 14 years old until I graduated high school, I took the train, the Long Island Railroad, to my father’s store and to work.

Every weekday in Denver, from 1978 on, I took Regional Transportation District  buses and the light-rail downtown for work. I would occasionally take RTD buses to Boulder and Colorado Springs.  

The Columbia Transit system, with its unreasonable hours of availability, the current scheduling and its routing of buses, makes it one of the worst public transportation systems I have attempted to use. Greyhound does not make the 35-mile trip between Columbia and Jefferson City. Here, in the middle of Middle-America, you can’t get “there from here” on any form of public transportation, at least not directly.  

Missouri is supposed to receive up to $10.33 billion from the portion of the president’s stimulus package slated to provide the states the additional moneys to be used, in part, for transportation.

The president’s new stimulus program includes another $8 billion for high-speed rail. The Federal Railroad Administration has already designated the Interstate 70/St. Louis to Kansas City route as a high-speed rail corridor. The high-speed rail service is slated to continue to Chicago, thus connecting little old Columbia directly with the Windy City.

Are you seeing a pattern here?  

On Monday, our governor launched a new Web site, transform.mo.gov, asking for suggestions and proposals for the state’s stimulus funding. As of Tuesday morning, there have been close to 360 suggestions and proposals submitted. Unfortunately, the responses are not available to the public. Yet. Allow me to make my proposal very public.

Mr. Nixon, I propose that the state of Missouri use a portion of its stimulus package to create a Regional Transportation District in central Missouri. The district will be responsible for the design, construction and administration of three high-speed or light-rail systems that will coordinate with the I-70 corridor high-speed system. The district will include the U.S. 54 corridor from Mexico to Jefferson City, the U.S. 63 corridor from Moberly to Jefferson City, and U.S. 50 corridor from Jefferson City to the Lake of the Ozarks.  

Robert Kulat, public affairs specialist for the Federal Railroad Administration, told me that the state of Missouri can designate the intermediate stops for the east-west train. So, designate Kingdom City, Columbia and Boonville. The right-of-way for the north-south system can be the center median on the three U.S. highways, so as not to take away private property. Park-n-rides can be set at each stop location to accommodate riders. The only variation from the highway would be the stop at the Columbia Regional Airport.  

Mr. Nixon, think of the people you would put to work. Think of the access to the state’s flagship university. Think of the business that could be generated at the Lake, the Boat and the cities involved. Think of the future growth of the Columbia airport when getting there is half the fun. Think of the gasoline dollars saved and the pollution not poured into our atmosphere. Think of the new businesses that will want to relocateto central Missouri because of its superior transportation. Don’t even think of saying “no.”

This is not a pipe dream. Jefferson City administrator Steve Rasmussen and I had this very conversation last summer while sitting (actually standing) in the conference room at the Columbia airport. Then, we were talking about a bus system. Why not think big and forward, to a system that would be faster, more convenient and would bring Missouri into the 21st century? 

The state already has the statutes allowing this type of special district. The funding will shortly be available. Missourians will have jobs and central Missouri will be “green.” The state economy will grow, bringing in more tax revenue without increasing taxes. You, Mr. Nixon, will be a hero. (Am I laying it on a bit thick?)

Mr. Nixon, use the $10.33 billion for education, rebuilding the schools and buying new textbooks. Use the money to repair and rebuild our crumbling highways and bridges. Use the money to build Missouri’s state-of-the-art intrastate high-speed rail system.

David Rosman is a business and political communications consultant, professional speaker and college instructor in communications, ethics, business and politics. Besides the Missourian, David is also a featured columnist for MissouriTribune.com and TRCB.com. He welcomes your comments at ProfDave1011@netscape.net.


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