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Time to think outside the lines

By Chris Thompson

Regional transit authorities should kick in money for road construction even if it makes politicians nervous.

It’s true the money collected from sales taxes in a large city would pay for roadwork in outlying areas. It’s true the people paying those taxes in the large city would not like it if their money pays for a road on which they never will drive in a town they never will visit.

But there has to be some courage behind the conviction that a regional economy benefits everyone. There has to be some acknowledgment that a regional economy means more than simply changing the way politicians think; it means changing the way they spend money and set policy.

Roads statewide need money, and federal and state governments don’t have much to give. An RTA should fill that gap, but with limits.

The road needs in most regions could swallow an RTA budget whole, so ceilings should be placed to how much money is spent on roads. Significant portions of the budget should be set aside for such other forms of transit as bus and rail.

Talking about transit and a regional economy makes politicians feel good.

They extol the virtues of working together as a region and across county and municipal lines. They pat each other on the back as they talk about how regional growth and cooperation are the keys to unlocking the door to the international marketplace.

But if they don’t have the nerve to think outside their borders, then their idea of region is just another name for status quo.

Chris Thompson is the editor at The Daily Reporter. Part of his property taxes pay for pensions he’ll never enjoy.

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