Transit agencies get $787 million in federal grants

From Alaska to Florida, from Hawaii to Maine, the Obama administration on Monday spread $787 million in grants to help repair and restore the nation’s transit systems.

With $150 million already committed for that purpose to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, the D.C. region was left out of the new round of funding, other than a $1.5 million grant to improve bus stations, shelters and real-time information. Baltimore received $40 million to replace a 65-year-old bus barn and Ocean City will get $2 million to replace aging buses.

Virginia’s share of the federal largess is $2 million for paratransit vans in Hampton Roads and an additional $1 million for statewide transit management.

Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff said his agency received 836 applications for the money, requesting $4 billion. He called the grants a downpayment toward meeting the need for transit restoration and repair that has been deferred by transit systems in an era of tight budgets.

“We know it will take more than $80 billion to bring our rail and bus systems up to date, to make them fuel efficient . . .less polluting and more cost effective,” Rogoff said as he and U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced the grants.

“These are projects that will make a real difference in people’s lives,” LaHood said. “They’re replacing old buses with better technology that will reduce fuel and maintenance costs. On top of that, we’re creating jobs. We’re putting people back to work modernizing our nation’s transportation systems.”

Most of the money came from already allocated federal funds, but about 25 percent will come from the transportation bill signed into law this month. All but two states — Mississippi and Delaware — received money Monday. Rogoff said neither of those states submitted applications.

The big winner was New Jersey, which was awarded $76 million to upgrade its statewide bus fleet with fuel-efficient vehicles.

Ashley Halsey reports on national and local transportation.
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