Friday, January 9, 2009

Transit officials eye federal dollars

Public meeting scheduled for Jan. 14 to discuss local transportation needs


By JASON KAUFFMAN
Express Staff Writer

At a meeting set for Wednesday, Jan. 14, at 8:30 a.m., officials will discuss local priorities for public transportation funding. The outcome of the meeting could affect how federal dollars are spent locally.

In the years to come, access to federal transportation dollars will be determined by whether states and local governments have mobility plans in place that indicate which construction projects deserve funding.

Next week, the county will host a public meeting to discuss progress that's been made toward developing a local public mobility plan. Blaine County Commissioner Angenie McCleary will lead the meeting, set for Wednesday, Jan. 14, at 8:30 a.m.

The meeting will be held in the upstairs meeting room at the Old Blaine County Courthouse in Hailey.

The meeting stems from work being done by the Idaho Transportation Department to create mobility plans that show local transportation needs and priorities for 17 different areas of the state, called networks.

Wednesday's meeting will bring together county officials and staff from local transportation groups—including Ketchum-based Mountain Rides—that are working on the mobility plan for the network that covers Blaine, Camas and Lincoln counties.

Starting in 2010, no public transportation providers will be able to receive federal funding if their local network does not have its mobility plan in place, McCleary said.

She said that for the past five years, the state has been receiving federal transportation dollars that now total somewhere in the neighborhood of $5 million. Not only will the feds not be doling out more money until the mobility plans are in place, but they could actually pull funds already given if they're not spent, she said.

McCleary said the plans need to be completed by the end of January. She said the two local networks covering Ada as well as Blaine, Camas and Lincoln counties are well on their way to finishing their plans, something many other networks around the state cannot claim.

"We're way ahead of the game," she said.

Local officials have already developed a draft mobility plan for Blaine, Camas and Lincoln counties and will discuss it at next week's meeting. The preliminary plan can be viewed at www.blainecounty.org.




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