One of the benefits of our proposal to reform the nation's surface transportation program is that it will make funding and building new transit systems significantly easier than it is today. That is because our current transportation system requires lengthy federal reviews for projects and arbitrarily caps the amount of federal funds that can be invested in new subway, light rail or bus rapid transit projects.
Under our proposal, we make it easier to fund good transit projects by giving urban leaders greater flexibility and more resources to invest in transportation projects that make sense. That way, mayors and county executives will be able to fund the projects that will benefit their communities, instead of the projects that curry the greatest favor with Washington lobbyists. If new transit lines make the most sense, our plan makes it easier to get them built. Or if a wider highway is a better use of funds, then leaders should be able to proceed.
We saw that first hand yesterday with visits to Houston and St. Louis County as we continued our reform outreach tour. In Houston, Mayor Bill White and the head of the local transit agency, Frank Wilson, showed me their ambitious plans to build a new light rail line into the northern end of this great city. They want to partner with the private sector to raise capital to build the line, and construct a new transportation hub to link light rail with the city's planned commuter rail line and existing freeway network. When finished, the new line and hub should cut traffic, clean the air and strengthen the city's economy. And this project can be built with a large share of private sector dollars.
In short, it is the kind of project we should be encouraging communities to build. So when I told them, members of the local business community and their Congressman, Al Green, about our reform proposal and its new focus on metropolitan mobility, they grasped its significance. We could have a future where good projects like this get funded without lengthy federal reviews. We could have a future where mayors don't have to beg for earmarks to expand transit. And we could have a future where planners can talk about transit plans in terms of months and days, instead of years and decades.
Meanwhile, in St. Louis, county officials have long struggled with the constant bottlenecks and backups along Interstate 70 that have frustrated local commuters and discouraged regional shippers. County Executive Charley Dooley told me about the challenges of getting fixes to I-70 funded and how it makes it hard to attract residents and lure new jobs. So when I told him about how our reform proposal focuses on vital interstate investments and gives local officials the freedom and funds to address their transportation needs, you can imagine his excitement.
As we wrapped up another long day, the point was pretty clear: even though different areas face different transportation challenges, they are all struggling under our current broken approach. And they both share a hunger for new freedom and new support to get their cities moving again and their businesses thriving. That such different leaders saw the value of our proposal and vowed to get involved in the debate about the future of our transportation programs shouldn't be a surprise. Instead, it is a small victory for countless commuters and shippers longing for change.
With leaders like these involved in the debate, we will see a better transportation program next year that includes the kind of reforms we need. So as tired as we were from another long day, we wrapped things up feeling excited, and optimistic.