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Bus route from Willmar to Litchfield to begin in February

WILLMAR — A new bus route on U.S. Highway 12 between Willmar and Litchfield is expected to begin operation in February.

Kandiyohi Area Transit buses will make morning, afternoon and evening runs three days a week between the towns as part of a new coordinated program between KAT and Meeker Public Transit.

Dubbed the “Highway 12 Route,” the system will be especially helpful to senior citizens and other individuals who live along the highway and receive medical care, adult day services or participate in other programs in Willmar or Litchfield, said KAT Transit Director Tiffany Collins.

Currently volunteer drivers who are funded through the transit programs ferry individuals back and forth.

“It will greatly reduce the number of miles volunteers will have to run, and the number of trips for those volunteers,” said Collins, who is working out final details for the program with Ecumen of Litchfield, which administers Meeker Public Transit.

The KAT Joint Powers Board signed the memorandum of understanding at its meeting Friday.

KAT, which is serving as the fiscal agent for the shared program, will use its own buses and hire drivers for the route.

KAT will keep one bus in Litchfield that will make several trips back and forth to Willmar. A second KAT bus from Willmar will be used part-time to make one trip to Litchfield.

Buses will run for eight hours each Monday, Wednesday and Friday, with trips in the early morning, midday and mid-afternoon.

Buses will stop in Grove City, Atwater and Kandiyohi.

Efforts are being made to coordinate bus stops with the block nurse programs along the route, but the bus will go a mile or so off the highway to pick up passengers at their homes, said Collins.

It’s hoped that there will be at least five riders on each trip for a total of 40 riders each day, she said.

Most of the two-year program is funded with an annual $75,000 grant from the Minnesota Department of Transportation, with both counties each paying about $5,500.

Riders will also pay a fee.

One-way trips to Willmar will be $2 from Kandiyohi, $3 from Atwater, $5 from Grove City and $6 from Litchfield.

Collins said there is concern that some will find the rides too expensive, but she said the fees are based on the current mileage rate of 56 cents a mile and they matched with fees Meeker Public Transit charges for rides they provide to other communities, like Hutchinson.

A toll-free 800 number will be set up to make it easy for people to reserve rides on the Highway 12 route, but calls can also be made to the individual transit systems in Willmar and Litchfield.

Collins said the program is starting out small by running three days a week. It’s hoped that it will become popular with riders and that the number of routes will expand.

Carolyn Lange

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

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