Detroit may take legal action over $7 million funding cut

DETROIT — Detroit may take legal action against the recent decision to move $7 million in federal capital funds from the Detroit Department of Transportation to the suburban SMART bus system.

Last week, the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments, temporarily named the guardian of distributing federal funds until the newly formed Regional Transit Authority takes over in October, voted to change the formula for how such money is distributed.

The City Council voted Tuesday to ask the city’s law department for an opinion on whether Detroit should seek a temporary restraining order against the funding switch and further legal action to reverse the decision.

Any legal challenge would require approval of Mayor Dave Bing and the city’s emergency manager, Kevyn Orr. Bing’s office said it likely would support such a move, but it wasn’t immediately clear whether Orr would back a challenge.

A split in place since the 1970s favored Detroit 65 percent to 35 percent. Now, with SEMCOG’s vote, the split of the $42 million is 51.5 percent for SMART and 48.5 percent for DDOT. That change means $7 million less for DDOT in favor of SMART.

Bing and other city officials pleaded with SEMCOG last week not to change the formula, saying it would hurt DDOT at a time when Detroit is in critical financial trouble and under state receivership.

But suburban officials say the formula has arbitrarily and unfairly favored DDOT for years, and SMART badly needs the money to replace and upgrade its aging fleet of buses.

SEMCOG leaders said the Federal Transit Administration asked regional leaders to come up with better funding formula, one less based on ridership figures than the old split had been, and that metro Detroit risked losing money if it didn’t quickly approve a new plan for distributing the money. But city officials disputed that the FTA would require a change that would harm DDOT and its 106,000 riders a day, compared to SMART’s ridership at about 35,000 daily.



Posted by Tribune News Services

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