Reauthorization of the federal transportation bill earlier this year provides more than resources to undertake an ambitious highway construction plan. It also will hasten the development and expansion of public transportation services throughout rural Idaho, including special assistance for the elderly and persons with disabilities.
The largest benefactor of increased federal funding under the new SAFETEA-LAU bill is public transportation services to rural communities, explains Janet Weaver of ITD’s Division of Public Transportation.
The program, known as 5311, received $1.9 million in fiscal year 2005 to serve about a dozen rural communities with populations of at least 10,000. Funding will increase by 254 percent over the four years remaining in the new federal bill. In 2006, the program will receive $4.9 million; by 2009, the last year of the authorization, funding is expected to increase to about $5.8 million.
Under six-year federal transportation bill that expired
in 2003, Idaho received $9.3 million for the rural communities program.
The total anticipated under the new bill is $25 million.
Funding for services to the elderly and persons with disabilities (federal program 5310 will increase more than 14 percent under the new bill, from $471,058 in 2005 to about $622,843 in 2009.
For the first time, funds also will be available under the federal tribal program (5311 (c). It will begin with about $242,527 and incrementally increase to more than $450,000 within four years.
Another important benefit of the new bill is a significant change in the local match that organizations and communities must provide to purchase and maintain public transportation vehicles.
Instead of the 80/20 match previously used for rural communities under the 5311 program and for the elderly/persons with disabilities (5310), the ratio shifts to 92 percent federal dollars and eight percent local.
Under the expired transportation bill, a community or non-profit organization would have needed $10,000 in local funds to purchase a new van or bus valued at $50,000. The new match requirements drop the local match to $4,000, which makes vehicles much more affordable.
Public transportation providers in Idaho’s urban
areas, such as the Treasure Valley, Idaho Falls, Lewiston, Coeur d’Alene,
Nampa and Pocatello will continue to use the 80/20 ratio.
Weaver has explained the new opportunities during recent
trips to Southern Idaho. She encourages communities and non-profit organizations
to obtain and submit grant applications to take advantage of the increased
funding and the lower match requirements.
Impact of the new federal transportation bill