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June 22, 2009

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NEWS HEADLINES

FTA Awards 14 Percent of ARRA Transit Grants; $1.4 Billion for Projects in 31 States

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has increased the percentage of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) grants it has awarded to 14 percent of the total available funds, accounting for more than $1.4 billion in 31 states.

On June 10, FTA announced the award of 77 ARRA grants totaling $909.4 million, which will fund transit improvements in 27 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Here is how just some of the grantees are using ARRA funds.

In Bridgeport, CT, Greater Bridgeport Transit (GBT) received $2.8 million in ARRA grant funds to be used for the replacement of 40 fixed route bus engines.

John Weldon, assistant managing director for GBT, explained that the buses had reached their six-year midlife period and, with the new engines, will have at least another six years of service.

“These buses are approaching 300,000 miles each,” he said. “The midlife engine rebuild may extend the life of the vehicles; it will also create a more reliable fleet and diminish our maintenance costs.” He added that GBT would not have been able to fund this project without the help of ARRA.

Paul Matsuoka, executive director of the Livermore-Amador Valley Transit Authority (LAVTA) in Livermore, CA, described how his agency plans to use the $3 million grant it received under ARRA. LAVTA provides fixed route and paratransit service to Pleasanton, Dublin, Livermore, and unincorporated parts of Alameda County.

“We are essentially using the funds to complete 15 small projects that cumulatively total about $1 million,” Matsuoka said, “such as replacing bus fleet equipment and repairing broken infrastructure—things that, without these funds, we probably would get one or two done per year. These funds will allow us to accelerate the schedule.”

He noted that the remainder of the ARRA funds will support preventive maintenance of the agency’s buses and paratransit coaches, as well as operation of LAVTA’s complementary paratransit service under the Americans with Disabilities Act.  The Berks Area Reading Transportation Authority (BARTA) in Reading, PA, will use its $4.3 million ARRA grant for the purchase of four new 40-foot hybrid-electric buses and the replacement of six paratransit vehicles.

“The ARRA funding means that we can replace the paratransit vehicles when it’s time instead of waiting until they’re past their useful life,” said Janet Weiss, BARTA manager of programs and marketing. She also noted that the agency took delivery of five hybrid buses earlier this year and, “when we found out the stimulus funds would be available, we ordered the additional four.”

Other money from the grant will go toward the purchase of safety and security cameras for transit vehicles that do not currently have them; spare bus components; and electronic real-time passenger bus location information signage and other improvements at BARTA’s Intermodal Transportation Complex.

In South Carolina, the Charleston Area Regional Transportation Authority (CARTA) will receive $6.5 million through ARRA, which it will use for the replacement of nine buses; for facility renovation; and for transit enhancements including bus shelter construction at 25 locations, and passenger information systems at bus stops.

“We were investing in a capital reserve account, hoping for discretionary funding so we could complete these projects,” said Christine Wilkinson, transit administrator for CARTA. “We hoped that eventually we would receive federal funding, but ARRA made it happen much faster. That’s how we were ready to go so quickly.”

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