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Kandiyohi Area Transit receives a new $66K bus due to economic stimulus funds

WILLMAR -- Kandiyohi Area Transit will benefit from the federal economic stimulus package.

Transit Director Tiffany Collins said Tuesday that KAT will receive a new bus in August that will be totally funded with federal stimulus money.

Usually, 80 percent of the cost of a new transit bus is covered by federal and state funding and 20 percent is paid for with local funds, including county and city money.

Getting a bus that's 100 percent funded is a good deal for KAT, Collins said.

A new bus costs about $66,000.

Not having to pay the usual 20 percent share of $13,200 means KAT "won't have to go looking for these funds from the city or the county," Collins said.

Because it's getting its 2010 bus in 2009, KAT will not get a new bus next year.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation decided to use its share of the federal stimulus money to fund the 2010 buses a year early, Collins said. That will free up other money to purchase buses in 2010 for transit systems that had been denied funding for buses next year.

The "stimulus bus" will be the third new bus KAT will receive this year, said Collins.

KAT will get its regular 2009 replacement bus in May, with an 80-20 cost share.

KAT will also get another new bus in May from a federal transportation program called "Job Access and Reverse Commute."

That bus is designated for a new route that will cover the west side of Willmar. The bus will have a regular route that will bring workers to and from businesses in the industrial park, such as Jennie-O Turkey Store.

Besides the 80 percent funding to purchase that bus, the program also provides 50 percent of operations costs for the route.

The three new buses will replace existing high mileage buses.

Two of the old buses will be sold through a bidding process, but the board agreed to keep one older bus as a backup.

With the increased fleet, Collins said the board should consider expanding the facilities to have adequate inside storage for buses. She said some buses are currently parked in a wash bay and other buses are parked very close together in the garage with barely room to walk between them.

"It gets very, very tight in there," said Collins.

Board member Lourdes Schwab said "now is not the right time to be building extra storage space."

The board decided to park the backup bus outside for the short term to make more room for the working buses inside the garage.

Chairman Mark Mertens said as KAT expands its fleet and routes, additional storage facilities may eventually have to be built. If KAT is able to revive a plan to have a regular designated route for New London and Spicer, some buses could be stored in that part of the county, he said.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

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