BG urged to take driver’s seat planning transportation PDF Print E-mail
Written by HAROLD BROWN Sentinel City Editor   
Saturday, 12 October 2013 08:05
Bowling Green officials were encouraged to look beyond the short term Monday night by a national leader in transportation issues.
"Have a vision of more than two or four years," John Robert Smith, co-chairperson of Transportation for America, said in council chambers. "You need a 20 or 30 or 50-year vision. Find ways to raise your eyebrows above the horizontal line of today's problems."
Smith was invited to Bowling Green by First Ward Council Member Daniel Gordon to speak to council's Transportation and Safety Committee. All seven council members and many other people attended the 50-minute presentation. Smith spoke earlier Monday at a Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Government event in Toledo.
Smith is also a senior policy advisor of Smart Growth America and former head of the Board of Governors of Amtrak. He served 16 years as mayor of Meridian, Miss., where he continues to reside.
While he was mayor, that city of 42,000 people developed the South's first multi-modal transportation center 20 years ago as an economic development center. There are 350,000 people in the region.
Smith said the multi-modal effort required partnerships with the Mississippi Department of Transportation, Congress and other groups. He said Meridan has always been a railroad town and passenger service continues to be important in the region.
Smith said transportation is about economic development, with the ability to increase the potential for a community.
He said local control is a key factor with sidewalks, bike paths and roads and streets all vital elements.
Smith talked about how Meridian has been especially effective with its Safe Routes programs aimed at safety for children going to and coming from schools. The city has also renovated an 1889 opera house that has developed an international reputation, fully restored its city hall and has developed downtown housing. Smith said Mississippi State University, located in Starkville about 100 miles away, has begun to use the Opera House as part of its theater program.
"The challenge is to come together in a cohesive voice and learn to work together as regions. There are no more earmarks available to Congress," Smith said.
He urged council to explore ways to better connect the city and Bowling Green State University and pass the history and legacy of the community onto the next generation.
"Be Lincoln-hearted in the place that serves your soul," he said.
During his tenure as mayor Smith said he was sued twice and won reelection three times. He noted with a chuckle "my most vocal opponents now believe they created the vision."

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