CMT Annual Meeting Keynote Panel lays out vision for transit for future

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St. Clair County Board Chairman Mark Kern

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City of St. Louis Mayor Francis G. Slay

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MoDOT Director Dave Nichols

CMT’s Fiscal Year 2015 kicks-off 30 years of advocating for good public transit in the St. Louis region. As a part of the kick-off events, CMT invited local leaders to discuss their vision for transit and the future of the region. The keynote panel included St. Clair County Board Chairman Mark Kern; MoDOT Director Dave Nichols; and City of St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay. County Executive Dooley was not available.

“This year CMT kicks off 30 years of advocating for good public transit.  Since the inception of CMT in 1985, the St. Louis region has seen 46 miles of track with 37 light rail stations and an interconnected MetroBus system. Today, we have the opportunity to celebrate the latest addition to our system with the $10.3 million TIGER grant award for a new station at CORTEX, but the question is where does the region go from here.   This event provides St. Louis leaders a unique opportunity to lay out their transit priorities for the future,” said Kim Cella, CMT Executive Director.

MoDOT Director Dave Nichols spoke about the Department’s vision for the future of transportation in the State of Missouri. He said the Department needs to continue pursuing funding mechanisms and plans for multi-modal transportation strategies.  “I want to thank CMT for its support and endorsement of Constitutional Amendment 7. The election results, though disappointing, told us again that people weren’t voting against transportation, they were voting for or against the funding mechanism. We must continue working to find a solution that Missourians will support. MoDOT’s focus has not changed.  Our top priorities remain keeping ourselves and our customers safe; tanking care of the transportation system we have, for as long as we can, with resources we have; and providing outstanding customer service. That’s where we’ll focus our attention and spend our limited funds,” said Nichols.

Listen to Dave Nichols’ Full Presentation Here.

St. Clair County, IL Chairman Mark Kern stressed the importance of thinking regionally and ensuring transit serves all areas of southern Illinois instead of bypassing communities.  He laid out his vision, “MetroLink and MetroBus have been successfully operating in St. Clair County for over a decade now. Our new challenge is how to weave these tremendous investments into the community fabric, and then translate this vision into our long-term transportation infrastructure goals. In the next decade this will manifest itself through investments in MetroBikeLink expansion, new and improved County roads, and High Speed Rail in East St. Louis. Active partnerships with advocacy groups like CMT provide us with a critical component to develop a cogent and innovative strategy that benefits the continued growth of our region.”

Listen to Chairman Kern’s Full Presentation Here.

Mayor Francis Slay, City of St. Louis, talked about transit’s role beyond moving from Point A to  Point B.  He referred to the City of Ferguson and the need for access to jobs. Transit plays a key role in job access, connectivity and building stronger neighborhoods.   He also said Amendment 7 was an opportunity to move transit forward in the region and City of St. Louis.

“CMT has been a central player in developing public support for a steadily evolving and expanding bi-state system of light rail.  It also has played a key role in rescuing and sustaining transit in the region.  When Metro faced a financial crisis that could have ended transit as we know it, CMT helped save the day.  More recently, CMT’s endorsement of the statewide vote on a temporary 3/4 cent sales tax increase for transportation was unpopular with some of the organization’s members and supporters. But CMT did exactly what we need to do to break through on urban transportation. CMT took a long-term view on how to solve a complex problem,” said St. Louis Mayor Slay.

Listen to Mayor Slay’s Full Presentation Here.

The panel over and over again stressed the importance of thinking regionally with transit and the benefits it provides to the region as a whole.   Each leader indicated the need for more transit and emphasized transit as a part of the solution for challenges we as a region face.

Read St. Louis Public Radio’s coverage of the event here:  http://news.stlpublicradio.org/post/state-and-local-officials-share-their-vision-future-transit.