The Regional Transportation Authority has steadfastly worked to give the voters what they asked for back in 2006. Roadways, bike paths, expanded transit, bus pullouts, the list goes on and on, and I admire our elected officials across the community for meeting the commitment to the voters. Although 2026, the end of the current RTA, is a few years away, we all know how time flies and how all the while our transportation needs will continue to grow.
The RTA recently formed a new 35-member citizens advisory committee to get started on the development of the next plan, the RTA continuation plan.
This continuation plan will look beyond June 2026, when the current RTA plan and half-cent sales tax that funded it are set to expire.
Based on the region’s identified long-term transportation planning needs, we anticipate billions of dollars of unfunded transportation projects. Without an extension of the tax, the region’s gap will grow to approximately $17 billion. Extending the RTA won’t solve the entire problem, but it is an important part of the best solution for our community.
The new citizens committee is made up of people across our region. They each have diverse transportation interests and they come from various walks of life. Members are interested in areas of roadway capacity, transit, automation, bicycle and pedestrian facilities, road maintenance and the added economic development investments that come with infrastructure improvements.
Back in 2006 we needed dedicated citizen representation because our process required a tremendous level of regional collaboration. In the prior 20 years, several transportation initiatives had failed, and an underlying reason was that citizens were looking for a plan that met the needs of all the community. That meant each municipality, and roadway advocates, transit advocates, groups that cared about the environment and our quality of life. The original RTA delivered all this, which is why it was the first major transportation initiative to pass countywide.
Going in, nothing is predetermined for the new citizens advisory committee, but our expectations for them are that they again do what is best for our entire region. The new continuation plan process will be fully led by this committee.
The new citizens advisory committee has already held its first meeting. This group of our fellow citizens will be rolling up their sleeves for an open and detailed process to determine the best way to solve our transportation priorities.
As the co-chair of the original RTA citizens committee, I can say that this new committee will have lively and engaging discussions. Not everyone will be on the same page at the beginning. They have the distinct role of weighing the pros and the cons, taking in public dialogue, seeking technical input and putting forth a recommendation to the RTA board for a well-rounded plan that they believe the public will support. This is no easy task.
I know this committee will reach consensus on a plan that will serve our region’s future. I’m so proud of all the individuals and what they did to make the RTA work in 2006. I’m also proud of what this new committee will do to accomplish even more going forward. There’s nothing that we can’t make happen when we do it for — and with — each other.