Petra Todorovich Messick

Petra TodorovichPetra Todorovich Messick is the former-Director of America 2050. As director of America 2050, Messick regularly convened and facilitated America 2050 workshops and seminars with partners such as the Rockefeller Foundation, Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, and Surdna Foundation. She wrote articles on transportation and infrastructure policy and was a frequent speaker on the topics of transportation policy, megaregions, and national planning. She worked at Regional Plan Association, where America 2050 is based, from 2001 to 2012.

Prior to the launch of America 2050, Messick directed Regional Plan Association's Region's Core program and coordinated the Civic Alliance to Rebuild Downtown New York, a network of organizations that came together shortly after 9/11 to promote the rebuilding of the World Trade Center site and Lower Manhattan. She planned numerous public forums and workshops of the Civic Alliance, including the 2002 "Listening to the City" meetings at the Javits Center that brought over 4,500 people together to consider plans for the World Trade Center site. She authored the 2004 Civic Assessment of the Lower Manhattan Planning Process and other pieces of analysis on the rebuilding process and New York City development.

Messick is also an Assistant Visiting Professor at the Pratt Institute Graduate Center for Planning and the Environment and a member of the Board of Advisors of the Eno Transportation Foundation. Messick received a B.A. from Vassar College and a Masters in City and Regional Planning from the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Recent Commentary

GOP Bills Would Cut Funding for Rail, Walking, Biking

Last week, more than two years after the nation's last five-year surface transportation law expired, the House of Representatives introduced its proposed legislation for rewriting the nation's transportation laws. And boy, it is a doozy. 

Facing severely reduced gasoline tax receipts, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee has proposed to cut many of the non-highway programs in the transportation bill that help give people alternatives to driving. These include things such as Transportation Enhancements, which provide set-asides for local projects that improve the transportation experience in communities (the ceiling of Grand Central Terminal was restored with a Transportation Enhancement grant); and other programs that reduce the environmental impact of transportation and promote pedestrian and biking facilities. The bill also reduces operating funding to Amtrak and cuts a capital grant program to relieve congestion on rail corridors.

The cuts to these programs were largely expected, but what provoked anger and surprise among many transportation experts was a separate measure by Ways and Means, the committee that authorizes the revenues for the transportation bill, that severed the 30-year-old link between highways and transit in the transportation trust fund. Since 1982, when President Ronald Reagan signed a bill that dedicated a penny of the federal gas tax to transit, transit agencies have had a steady source of reliable federal funding that allows them to keep their systems in good repair, replace outdated infrastructure and equipment and plan for the future. Dedicated funding for transit, which today amounts to 2.86 pennies of the 18.3 cents per gallon gas tax, has allowed systems like the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority to pull back from the brink of disinvestment and make five-year capital plans that include projects like the Second Avenue Subway and East Side Access that are now under way.

Yesterday, the budget deal hammered out over the weekend by Congress saw the light of day, revealing deep cuts for programs to expand rail infrastructure in the United States. The High-Speed Intercity Rail Program, which had been appropriated $1 billion in the temporary bill passed last week to stave off a government shutdown, was slashed to zero and $400 million was rescinded from the FY 2010 budget.

These cuts to the high-speed rail program are completely out of touch with continued and growing support for passenger rail in the United States. Just last week, 24 states, including 11 Republican governors, the District of Columbia, and Amtrak, half the country, applied for 98 rail projects totaling nearly $10 billion, four times the amount available. Amtrak recorded its 17th straight month of year-over-year growth in ridership and is on track to set an all-time annual ridership record, which was set last year.

So why is high-speed rail getting such a bad rap among some Republicans in Congress and in the news media?

Watch the full episode. See more Need To Know.

Petra Todorovich, Director of America 2050, was featured on the most recent episode of a segment on PBS called, Fixing America. The segment invites big thinkers from a wide range of areas and asks them one simple thing: "How do we get America moving again in the right direction." Petra weighed in on the issue of investing in national high-speed rail network.

From RPA's Spotlight on the Region

For those who support high-speed rail, targeted infrastructure investment, and transit-oriented policies, the clouds are not as dark as they seem.

That's the immediate implication of the new Republican majority in the House of Representatives that resulted from yesterday's midterm elections across the nation.

Certainly on the face of it, news is not good for trains or transit. One of the Democratic incumbents losing his seat is the chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, James Oberstar. A year and a half ago, Chairman Oberstar outlined a $500 billion transportation bill, which included $50 billion for an ambitious national high-speed rail program. But without a viable source of revenue for that bill, aside from the obvious but politically abhorrent option of hiking the gas tax, it languished. Prospects for a bill of that size in a Republican House are slim indeed.

But hopes for passing a transportation bill, even one that includes a high-speed rail program, are not dashed. The Republicans may very well succeed in pushing through the "highway bill" after the Democrat's Congress and the Obama Administration failed to make it a domestic priority in the last Congress.

Petra Todorovich - America 2050 from Steven Skemp on Vimeo.

View America 2050 Director Petra Todorovich's recent presentation on the benefits of high-speed rail to regional economies and where high-speed rail works best. The presentation was given at the conference of the U.S. High-Speed Rail Association in Hollywood, California on June 17, 2010.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood made waves last week with a speech he gave at the National Bike Summit in which he declared a new policy that will "treat walking and bicycling as equals with other transportation modes."

America 2050 Director Petra Todorovich hailed the announcement as a "win-win-win-win." You can read her commentary on the National Journal Transportation Blog here.
The National Journal Transportation Experts Blog moderator Lisa Caruso asked this week, "Is Obama Spending the High-Speed Rail Money Wisely? Read America 2050 Director Petra Todorovich's response here, along with other responses from a panel of transportation policy analysts and professionals. 

America 2050 hailed this week's high-speed rail announcement as the first step toward a sustained federal commitment to build a national high-speed rail network. But the skeptics at Fox Business had another take. Watch the clip.