Special to The Dallas Examiner
Mayor Eric Johnson, along with many other federal officials, attended the 88th Winter Meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors and other meetings in Washington, D.C. last week to discuss the city’s priorities.
As the vice chair for Transit for the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ Transportation and Communications Standing Committee, Johnson spoke as part of a panel Jan. 23, titled “Managing New Transportation and Communications Technologies and Services,” that also included Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and Plano Mayor Harry LaRosiliere. In his remarks, he called on his fellow mayors to push for the renewal of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act.
The FAST Act authorizes more than $44 billion each year for roads, bridges, and safety measures and about $12 billion annually for public transit and is set to expire Sept. 30.
“This is perhaps the most important legislation we will work on this year, and it is critical to our cities as we plan for transit,” Johnson said.
Since taking office, Johnson has met with members of the Dallas congressional delegation and U.S. House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee staff to talk about cities’ priorities in the next surface transportation bill, including the importance of a robust transit program and the need to “localize” federal highway dollars.
In addition, the mayor has also met with leaders of the American Public Transportation Association.
APTA’s leaders believe the FAST Act should allocate funding of at least $145 billion over six years to help bring America’s transit systems to a state of good repair, meet the needs of today’s commuters, and allow cities to prepare for future transportation demands. APTA is also advocating for a Mobility Innovation and Technology Initiative.
On Friday, he visited the White House for the first time as mayor and discussed the remediation and redevelopment of Hensley Field with a Trump administration official.
Hensley Field, formerly the Naval Air Station – Dallas, is a 738-acre waterfront site in southwest Dallas. The site sits inside a federal Opportunity Zone. The city of Dallas, which fully owns Hensley Field, has issued a Request for Qualifications for a Re-Use and Redevelopment Master Plan to guide future development of the site.
The Navy leased the Hensley Field site from 1949 to 1999. The city is awaiting a full environmental remediation from the Navy as part of a 2002 legal settlement.
“The redevelopment of Hensley Field is a unique economic opportunity that could produce tremendous benefits for Dallas residents,” said Johnson.
Scott Turner, executive director of the White House Opportunity and Revitalization Council who once served in the Texas House of Representatives with Johnson, told the group of mayors that he wanted to work with them to help spur investment in the Opportunity Zones.
The 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act created Opportunity Zones, which are designed to spur economic development and job creation in distressed areas. If projects meet certain requirements, taxpayers may defer tax on eligible capital gains on their investments in Opportunity Zones.
Johnson spoke with Turner about Hensley Field, one of 15 Opportunity Zones in Dallas.
“I had a very productive conversation about Hensley Field,” Johnson said. “I am hopeful that we can work with our federal partners to move forward with remediation of Hensley Field and transform a site with great potential into a productive economic asset for the city of Dallas.”