Polly Trottenbergy,m U.S. Under Secretary of Transportation Policy speaks at the 2013 MML Capital Conference.

By John LaMacchia

United States Deputy Secretary of Transportation John Porcari was scheduled to be the keynote speaker at our 2013 Capitol Conference Awards Luncheon. Due to President Obama's decision to release his budget on the same day their was a last minute change of plans and he was unable to attend. We were very fortunate that Polly Trottenberg, United States Under Secretary of Transportation for Policy, was able to attend in his place and provided a very informative presentation on federal transportation initiatives and their role in Michigan.

As a result of President Obama's budget being released on the same day as her presentation, she was able to give specific details about his plan. He is going to be moving forward with his "Fix it First Model", and will be asking for $50 billion in upfront money to jump start his vision for improving infrastructure across America and creating a 21st century transportation system. The President is proposing that $10 billion of that $50 billion be specifically concentration on local efforts and is committed to working with individual communities to integrate this investment.

Ms. Trottenberg drew a very direct correlation between the the long-term sustainability of the Federal Highway Trust Fund and decreasing revenue for road funding in Michigan. Much like Michigan, the Federal Government has not seen an increase in the federal gas tax rate in many years. This has resulted in less dollars available as more fuel efficient vehicles take to the road and the number of vehicle miles traveled decreases. Even with these problems, she highlighted the importance of needed investment to build a complete transportation system.

Other exciting news included a $40 Billion commitment by the President to the rail system in the United States. This includes $6.4 Billion to intercity rail systems. Ms. Trottenberg highlighted how the State of Michigan has made great strides in the City of Detroit with the M1 Rail project and the recent passage of the Regional Transit Authority. She also mention that a 5th round of TIGER Grants will be made available by the Federal Government and encouraged the State of Michigan to continue to look for innovative ways to use those funds.

Ms. Trottenberg's presentation was one of hope and optimism. The commitment by the Obama administration to our local communities was well received by our member and she was rewarded with a enthusiastic applause upon conclusion of her presentation.

Following her keynote address, Ms. Trottenberg was kind enough to participate in a press conference with Executive Director of the League Dan Gilmartin, League President David Lossing, Utica Mayor Jacqueline Noonan, and State Senator Roger Kahn. She described how investing in transportation is key to our nations economic success, and to Michigan's economic success. Executive Director Gilmartin, League President Lossing, and Mayor Noonan, highlighted the need for Michigan to move its transportation system out out the 20th Century and into the 21st Century. Legislative inaction on this issue is no longer and option. New revenue for road is needed in this state and those new dollars need to be spent in our local communities building great place were people want to live, work, and play. Senator Kahn, who has been a great leader on the issue of increasing road funding in Michigan, highlighted the benefits of saving lives, creating jobs, and saving money, as a result of investing in infrastructure.

The Michigan Municipal League was honored to have Ms. Trottenberg participate in our Capital Conference this year. We are very please with the encouraging message she delivered about President Obama's commitment to the nations transportation system, and the recognition of Michigan's critical role in that system.

John LaMacchia is a Legislative Associate for the League handling transportation issues. He can be reached at jlamacchia@mml.org or 517-908-0303.

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