A Helena city commissioner says she hopes to advocate for the needs of communities like hers, as part of a national committee on infrastructure issues.
Commissioner Heather O’Loughlin was appointed to the National League of Cities’ Transportation and Infrastructure Services federal advocacy committee for 2020. The committee will help the league develop its policy priorities for issues like streets and highways, public transit, aviation and railroads.
O’Loughlin said leaders with the Montana League of Cities and Towns encouraged her to put herself forward for the appointment.
“I think that it’s a great opportunity to highlight some of the ongoing challenges for cities and towns in Montana,” she said.
She said the federal government has a big influence on what cities do about transportation and infrastructure, and she wants to make sure cities like Helena have a voice as new legislation goes forward.
O’Loughlin was elected to the Helena City Commission in 2017. She says, in recent years, she’s taken a bigger interest in transportation and infrastructure issues and how they connect with a city’s other goals.
“I like the ability to think about transportation and infrastructure as it relates to broader economic development,” she said.
Helena has recently completed transportation improvements like the reconstruction of Front Street and Neill Avenue – aimed at improving pedestrian access and connectivity in the downtown area – and Fee Street sidewalk expansions – intended to help people reach health care and stores.
Leaders say they are also planning other big infrastructure projects, including a rebuild of Rodney Street and sidewalk improvements to help make it easier for kids to walk to school.
O’Loughlin has had previous experience working on federal issues, spending several years as a counsel, legislative director and advisor for U.S. Sen. Max Baucus.