The St. Louis Metro Transit System is lobbying the Trump administration and lawmakers in Washington to steer federal money its way for projects.
John Nations, who heads the agency which operates the system, Bi-State Development of the Missouri-Illinois Metropolitan District, points to Trump’s recent address to Congress asking for a trillion dollar infrastructure package, as a welcome sign.
“One thing about President Trump that we all know is he was a real estate developer in New York and he understands how important infrastructure is for our regions” said Nations.
He thinks a federal transportation program that Congress and the Trump administration can agree on is critical to Metro’s planned expansion of the St. Louis light rail system. “In order for any expansion to happen, it would certainly require participation of federal funding on a capitol project like that.”
Nations and representatives from St. Louis are in Washington for the American Public Transportation Association Legislative Conference.
The organization released a study in 2014 claiming investment in transit can yield 50,731 jobs per $1 billion invested, and offers a 4 to 1 economic return. The St. Louis Metro Transit System was singled out by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) last year as a model for its bus maintenance program.
Bi-State Development, which operates the transit, is an interstate organization in Missouri and Illinois which is funded by governments in St. Louis City, St. Louis County and St. Clair County, Illinois.
One of its top infrastructure priorities is rebuilding the Merchants Bridge which carries freight rail traffic over the Mississippi River between the two states. Nations says a federal infusion of $75 million could be added to $150 million in private money his agency’s secured to finance the bridge. He thinks such an arrangement would fit nicely into talk among Republican lawmakers in Washington to use private investment to subsidize infrastructure projects.
Nations says he’s not worried about GOP resistance to public transit funding.
“I know that people talk about Republicans and Democrats, but there are a lot of Republicans who favor public transportation as an economic development issue, which is in fact what it is” said Nations. “Your transportation strategy, whether you move people in cars or on public transit, where’s the investment.”
Nations was a ten-year Republican mayor of the suburban St. Louis city of Chesterfield. The three-day American Public Transportation Association Legislative Conference in Washington wraps up Tuesday.