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In Missouri, the 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.