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MTC Chief Urges Much Bigger Federal Role In Transportation Investment

McMillan Stresses Access, Flexibility in House Committee Testimony
Rebecca Long
John Goodwin, MTC (415) 778-5262

In testimony before the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) Executive Director Therese W. McMillan today urged Congress to reauthorize the 2015 Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act and to increase federal investment in transportation, particularly in the nation’s metropolitan areas.

“A strong federal role in our nation’s multimodal transportation system has been essential for the entirety of our nation’s history,” testified McMillan, speaking on behalf of MTC and other federally-designated metropolitan planning organizations. “It is a core federal responsibility. But transportation is not just about moving people and goods around. It is about access to opportunity and quality of life, and we believe it is time for the federal government to do more, much more.”

McMillan noted the local/state/federal partnership model enshrined in the FAST Act is a model that works, highlighting the California Legislature’s 2017 approval of the state Senate Bill 1 transportation-financing package and the Bay Area’s commitment each year of more than $1.5 billion of voter-approved sales tax and bridge toll revenue. “Providing for continued growth of the U.S. economy demands a much larger federal commitment to the local-state-federal partnership.”

“It was nice to be back on Capitol Hill,” observed McMillan, who served executive roles for the Federal Transit Administration from 2009 to 2016, after completing her testimony. “It was important to have regions invited early to be part of the transportation reauthorization debate. Congress needs to fulfill its responsibility to extend this country’s access opportunities to all its people.

McMillan cited the federal Surface Transportation Program (STP) and Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement (CMAQ) programs as especially important vehicles for increased investment.  “STP and CMAQ provide the flexibility and the accountability to tailor creative solutions across very different communities. For the Bay Area, this flexibility is crucial as we prepare ourselves not just for technological change but also to be more resilient in the face of rising sea levels. The recently flooded Highway 37 in the North Bay is a great example. We need that road to be rebuilt higher but also more environmentally friendly. And we need to do it fast. A bigger federal commitment would go a long way toward meeting all these needs.”

MTC is the transportation planning, financing and coordinating agency for the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area. Members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee include 11th District Rep. Mark DeSaulnier of Contra Costa County; Third District Rep. John Garamendi, whose district includes much of Solano County; and Second District Rep. Jared Huffman, whose district includes Marin and Sonoma counties.