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Regional Transit Gets Stronger Footing 

A reorganization of the Richmond Metropolitan Authority intended to pave the way for a regional public transit system appears poised to pass the General Assembly.

The measure, which renames the board as the Richmond Regional Transportation Authority, failed last year after state Sen. Henry Marsh, a Richmond Democrat, voted against it. It was reported that Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones also withdrew support, but he’s denied that.

The bill’s author, Delegate Manoli Loupassi, a Republican who represents parts of Richmond, Henrico and Chesterfield, met privately with Marsh and Jones last week. All parties report that they’re on board with the plan this year.

“We had a meeting of the minds,” Marsh says. “It went well.”

Marsh voted against the measure last year because the legislation kept being amended, he says.

Membership on the RMA, which manages the Downtown Expressway and parts of the Powhite Parkway, is weighted in favor of Richmond. Loupassi’s bill, like last year’s version, would equalize membership among the city, Henrico and Chesterfield.

Loupassi said he hopes the change will offer the three localities a venue to pursue joint transportation projects, particularly public transportation. Importantly, the authority will have the ability to issue bonds to finance projects.

Sen. Donald McEachin, a Democrat whose district includes parts of Richmond and Henrico, said he plans to offer an amendment to the bill that would add language specifically dealing with public transportation, which the current draft doesn’t mention. He also says he’s pushing for an allocation from the state’s general fund for a study of regional transportation in the city.

“I’ve been advised by community leaders that we need to have a serious plan done,” he says. “So one way to get that plan done is to make sure the money is available.”

— Ned Oliver
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