Bus Funding Plans Draw Criticism

The chairman of the Twin Cities' Metropolitan Council announced Monday plans to use federal stimulus money to fund the bus system rather than "shovel-ready" projects for which they were intended.

"The announcement drew no applause from the audience, which included elected officials from the metro.

'I share your concern for operating costs, but I simply disagree that using federal stimulus dollars is the solution,' Ramsey County Board Chairwoman Jan Parker told Bell at the first chance audience members had to speak.

The federal stimulus package, which is winding its way through Congress, is seen by many cash-strapped governments as their version of a Washington, D.C.-based bailout.

But the federal money is likely to be a one-time disbursement and, thus far, is supposed to be used to build "shovel-ready" projects. Many local governments have come up with wish lists of infrastructure projects - roads, schools, trails - that will be funded only if the stimulus is passed. Transit dollars in the package have been seen by many as a way to kick-start rail and express bus routes that are badly needed but lack startup funds.

'We should be looking at getting things built,' Anoka County Commissioner Dan Erhart said immediately after Bell's remarks. For example, Erhart said, an envisioned passenger train to Duluth, the 'Northern Lights Express,' needs such money."

Full Story: Stimulus aid to run buses? It's on the table

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