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July 6, 2009

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ARRA Funds Benefit Many Modes of Transit

As the Federal Transit Administration releases more American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funding to public transit agencies, here is information on how some of the grant recipients are using their funds.

The Mid Mon Valley Transit Authority (MMVTA) in Charleroi, PA, is using its $1.5 million grant for an intermodal facility in the city of Donora—where industrial smog led to 20 deaths in 1948, launching the environmental effort that culminated in passage of the Clean Air Act.

Mark Roncone, director of marketing, noted that the ARRA grant will help MMVTA complete the first of two phases of the project—construction of an 11,000-square-foot maintenance garage. The second phase, to be financed with future funding, will include indoor housing for all vehicles and a facility that offers bike racks, bus shelters, waiting and parking areas, ticketing and information counters, and connections with other regional operators. Donora has been designated as a distressed borough, and this project supports borough revitalization efforts.

Roncone explained that MMVTA contracts out all its operating services and rents its current facility from a contractor. The new building will belong to the authority.

Los Angeles Metro will replace two traction power substations for Metro Blue Line light rail, as well as associated electrical support systems along the line right-of-way and yard, with its $8.2 million ARRA grant. This funding will go toward a $50 million project that ultimately will replace more than 20 of the substations.

Cost analysis favored replacing the existing substations, which are becoming obsolete and inefficient. Difficulty in obtaining spare parts makes a major overhaul impractical, said Michael Harris-Gifford, Metro’s deputy executive officer for wayside systems and rail vehicle acquisition.

The San Joaquin Regional Transit District (RTD) in Stockton, CA, is receiving $6.9 million in ARRA funds, of which “the lion’s share is going toward preventive maintenance,” said Paul Rapp, marketing and communications manager. “We’re using other funds for bus improvements and passenger amenities, as well as money for Phase II of our Bus Rapid Transit project.”

Specific capital improvements funded by the grant will include construction of the Mall Transfer Station; design of the Regional Operations Center; computer/communications equipment and software; and safety and security equipment.

In New Orleans, the Regional Transit Authority (RTA) plans to use a $2.4 million ARRA grant for improvements to the St. Charles Avenue streetcar line. The main components of the project are vehicle maintenance and the expedited replacement of decaying wooden crossties with composite ties expected to last 50 years.

“The crosstie project was previously in the works in-house; however, we did not have the staff to complete the project, nor did RTA have the money to contract it out,” explained RTA spokesperson Rosalind Blanco Cook. The new crossties are made from a plastic composite that will not mildew or rot and is not affected by ultraviolet rays.

RTA will use a second ARRA grant, for $14.9 million, for a variety of purposes including the purchase of five articulated buses, seven kiosks, and 300 bus shelters, plus the rehabilitation of the 3900 block of Desire Parkway, a street used exclusively by the authority.

Metra commuter rail in Chicago recently received $46.6 million in ARRA funds, part of an overall $141 million the system expects to obtain under the program. The current grant will allow Metra to rehabilitate bridges on the Electric and Union Pacific North lines and replace fiber optic cable on the Burlington Northern Santa Fe commuter rail line.

Metra spokesperson Michael Gillis noted that the total $141 million amount also includes station restorations, parking expansion, locomotive remanufacturing, and the construction of a new station.

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