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In Missouri, State DOT Lobbies to Block Complete Streets

Today we’ve got a disturbing story from Missouri about the influence
exerted by the Missouri Department of Transportation on the legislative
process in that state. From Missouri Bicycle News:

2550798080_80b70e99b0.jpgPhoto by Caro’s Lines via Flickr.

Do you, the members of the public get to decide public policy in Missouri or is that a job for MoDOT and its lobbyists?

That
is the question being asked by many legislators, as influence of MoDOT
and its lobbyists have come under fire in this legislative session.
This year MoDOT has continued to work to undermine a number of
legislative issues it opposes, including the Missouri Complete Streets Bill.

The major transportation bill for this session, HB 683,
passed both houses of the General Assembly this week. It is likely to
be the only major transportation bill passed this session. It started
as a minor bill about temporary license plates but had dozens of
transportation-related provisions added at a very late moment in the
legislative process.

The reason for this last-minute, back-room
maneuver was to keep provisions out of the bill that MoDOT opposed –
including Complete Streets, which was approved unanimously by the House
Transportation Committee and has been included in all proposed
transportation omnibus bills from that chamber.

Reports from the
General Assembly indicate that MoDOT lobbying played a key role in the
maneuvering that moved HB 683 forward without any chance to include the
Complete Streets provision or other provisions supported by the House
Transportation Committee but opposed by MoDOT.…The
question many legislators are asking: Is it right for MoDOT to spend
public money to lobby the legislative process and strongly influence
legislative decisions affecting MoDOT?

The amount of control exerted by state DOTs over the spending process has been a concern for advocates of sustainable transportation for many years. It’s one reason that reform of transportation funding mechanisms is so important. In Missouri, according to Missouri Bicycle News, there’s also a proposal to block the state DOT from lobbying the legislature.

Elsewhere around the network, the New York Times article about the (almost) car-free suburb of Vauban, Germany, and the related blog post
about the possibility of living car-free in the United States continue
to provide fodder for debate around the network, with both Matt Yglesias and Cap’n Transit weighing in.