The Capital District Transportation Authority has been awarded $9.5 million in federal grant money to complete its BusPlus capital improvements and to buy new buses next year.
U.S. Sens. Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand announced the new funding from two separate Department of Transportation grants on Thursday.
“This is an important investment for Albany and the local economy,” Gillibrand said in a news release.
The funding was welcomed by CDTA, the regional mass transit agency, which is struggling with rising operating costs and frozen state subsidies.
“This is phenomenal news for us. We’re overjoyed. We’ve been successful with two different very competitive grants,” said CDTA Executive Director Carm Basile.
One grant is $5.5 million to complete the infrastructure for BusPlus, CDTA’s new and high-profile rapid transit bus service along Route 5 between Albany and Schenectady.
The BusPlus money will be used to pay for eight more bus stations, installing emergency phones and security cameras and for real-time message signs that will alert people to when the next bus will arrive.
BusPlus was launched last April after a decade of planning. The federal government has already put $16.5 million into the effort, which included buying a new fleet of diesel-electric hybrid buses and construction of 18 new stations specifically for the express service between the two cities.
“I think what this grant award does is validate the importance of the project, and that we’re doing the right thing,” Basile said.
CDTA officials have said BusPlus has been more successful than initially anticipated, increasing ridership about 10 percent in the corridor. The Central Avenue corridor is already the transit agency’s busiest, with about 3.5 million boardings last year.
The 17-mile route runs along the commercial corridor through Schenectady, Niskayuna, Colonie and Albany.
The second grant from the federal Department of Transportation will pay $4 million toward the new buses the authority will need to buy in 2012 to replace aging buses.
This year, CDTA is borrowing $8 million to buy 20 buses — the first time the authority has borrowed to buy buses rather than paying cash. CDTA board members, when authorizing the borrowing in July, said that the need to borrow was an indication of the authority’s struggle to balance its costs and revenues.
Basile said the grant money will be for next year’s bus order, and it reduces the chances the authority would need to borrow again. “This is like saying two-thirds of next year’s buses are already paid for,” Basile said.
The money from DOT’s State of Good Repair program was awarded through a competitive grant program.
“It’s great news for us, and hats off to our congressional delegation,” Basile said.
In a news release, the two Democratic senators said the funding will enhance the region’s economy by making it easier for bus riders to get around.
“This grant will improve the daily commutes to and from work and shopping and visiting loved ones for hundreds of residents,” Schumer said.
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Categories: Schenectady County