Central Arkansas public transit could benefit from national bipartisan support for infrastructure spending. Charles Frazier, the CEO of Rock Region Metro, traveled to Washington D.C. as part of a national delegation of transit officials requesting federal funding.
"There are backlogged 'state of good repair' projects – upwards of $90 billion – and without the appropriate support from the federal government that work gets kicked down the road," Frazier said.
Frazier was one of several members of the American Public Transportation Association to present data from a report generated by the APTA to members of the U.S. Congress. In addition to repair projects, federal dollars could also help pay for new projects, like an expansion of the transit hub in Arkansas's capital city.
"[Rock Region Metro] owns a city block in downtown Little Rock and we own the building rights to build up. It's trying to solve a few different problems. We have a workforce housing issue. We have a food desert issue. A transit-oriented development study would allow us to build infrastructure, so building upward."
According to Frazier, a mixed-use building would meet several needs in the downtown area. He credits federal dollars for paying for the downtown hub and for recent upgrades, such as increasing the number of Rock Region Metro buses that run on compressed natural gas.
Federal dollars are more important in some states than others where public transit is concerned.
When asked about the intersection between his efforts at the nation's capital and the recent highway funding bill passed in Arkansas Frazier said, "Arkansas is one of five states that doesn't flex money to public transportation. I think in our state it's critically important, obviously, that we maintain that infrastructure. We really rely on the federal dollars coming down that are identified specifically for public transit."