Friday, March 20, 2009

Valley transit could benefit from stimulus

Up to $1.6 million identified by Gov. Otter for use in local public transportation

Express Staff Writer

Ketchum-based Mountain Rides Transportation Authority could receive up to $1.6 million in transit funding for its bus and vanpool programs as part of a recommendation by Idaho Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter on how to spend federal stimulus dollars. Photo by Mountain Express

Blaine County public transportation programs could receive more than $1.6 million if the Idaho Legislature approves a recommendation by Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter on how to spend federal stimulus dollars.

The federal American Economic Recovery and Reinvestment Act, signed by President Barack Obama in mid-February, provides $787 billion to create jobs and jumpstart economic growth throughout the United States. Idaho's share of the stimulus package is expected to be a little more than $1 billion.

Under Otter's recommendation, the regional Idaho Transportation Department district covering Blaine, Camas and Lincoln counties is tabbed to receive just over $1,614,000. All but $70,000 of that would go to Mountain Rides Transportation Authority.

Blaine County Commissioner Angenie McCleary, who helped put together the list of local transit projects, said the Wood River Valley benefited from transportation planning done previously. McCleary said that work allowed the county to quickly pull together a detailed list of projects that were simply waiting for funding.

"We were really well organized and ready to go," she said. "I think it's really positive."

The funds, should the Legislature approve Otter's recommendation, would be used by Mountain Rides for:

· Purchase of additional and replacement buses, at a cost of $1.2 million.

· Purchase of additional and replacement vans—$245,000.

· Educational outreach to expand the use of regional public transportation—$100,000.

· Preventative maintenance on its vehicle fleet—$60,316.

· A transit shelter in Bellevue—$9,000.

The remaining $70,000 would be used by the city of Sun Valley for construction of bus shelters and bus pullouts.

Mountain Rides became an official not-for-profit agency in August 2007 when the old KART and PEAK bus systems were consolidated with Wood River Rideshare. The agency's fiscal 2009 budget is about $2.3 million, provided by Blaine County and local municipalities, federal grants, rider fares and Sun Valley Co.

Statewide, about $200 million of the Idaho-bound stimulus dollars are identified for use in transportation-related projects. Of that amount, Otter has identified nearly $182 million for use in statewide highway and bridge projects. However, the governor's recommendation doesn't identify any highway or bridge projects in Blaine County.

Just under $10 million would be used for transit projects in urban areas of the state. The $1.6 million identified for use in Wood River Valley transit projects is part of $8.7 million that Otter has recommended for use in rural areas of the state.

Jason Kauffman:

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