City-Trolley transit center

The CityLine Trolley center, at the corner of Sycamore and Market streets, opened Monday morning, Dec. 3, 2018. Tim Bath | Kokomo Tribune

The City of Kokomo has received $2.6 million from the U.S. Department of Transportation that officials say will be used in part to build a new bus garage and purchase six new Spirit of Kokomo vans.

The money was allocated to the city last month as part of a $25 billion package divvied up to help the nation’s public transportation systems respond to the COVID-19 outbreak. Funding was provided through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

Mayor Tyler Moore said the city expected to receive some transit money from the stimulus package, but didn’t anticipate it would be such a large amount.

“Needless to say, we were excited,” he said. “To receive that amount of money was a very pleasant surprise.”

Moore said the city now plans to put $1.4 million towards general operating expenses of its transit system, which includes the City-Line Trolley buses and the Spirit of Kokomo vans, and to help offset extra costs incurred due to COVID-19.

Those extra costs include purchasing personal protective gear for bus drivers and passengers; sanitizing and power washing vehicles; and additional gas and manpower required to allow proper social distancing on vehicles.

Moore said $800,000 of the federal money will be used to build a new bus garage to replace the one that burned down in 2014. The fire destroyed the facility located at 919 Millbrook Lane, as well as eight trolley buses.

Since then, buses have been housed at the city’s wastewater treatment plant.

Moore said the garage will free up space at the plant, and also include a maintenance area for the buses. It will be built where the former garage was located on Millbrook Lane.

“This will definitely give us a more reliable storage facility,” he said.

The federal money will also be used to purchase six new Spirit of Kokomo vans, which are used for those who are disabled or over the age of 60. The city currently has 29 vehicles in the fleet.

Moore said he anticipates social-distancing guidelines will remain in place for some time in the city’s transit system, and the extra vans will go a long way to ensure there are enough vehicles to follow distancing protocols.

“In light of the challenges that everyone is facing in every municipality, to have these funds made available to address the needs in a very essential service the city provides has been a shot in the arm,” he said. “The funding has been a wonderful boost to the program.”

Indiana in total received $46 million in federal transit funding, with Muncie getting $5.7 million; Terre Haute, $4 million; and Anderson, $3.4 million. The largest allocation went to Lafayette, which received $11.1 million.

K. James Williams, acting FTA administrator, said the money is meant to support operating assistance to transit agencies of all sizes that provide essential travel, and support transit workers across the country who are unable to work because of the public health emergency.

“We know many of our nation’s public transportation systems are facing extraordinary challenges, and these funds will go a long way to assisting our transit industry partners in battling COVID-19,” Williams said in a release.

The Federal Transit Administration has also issued a safety advisory to implement safety procedures including the wearing of face marks, personal protective equipment, cleaning and disinfecting of frequently touched surfaces. The Kokomo transit system has implemented all of those guidelines.

Carson Gerber can be reached at 765-854-6739, or on Twitter @carsongerber1.

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Carson Gerber is a reporter for the Kokomo Tribune and can be reached at 765-854-6739, or on Twitter @carsongerber1.

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