Groups request ARPA money for public transportation

Published: Jun. 27, 2022 at 6:01 PM CDT|Updated: Jun. 27, 2022 at 6:15 PM CDT
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Advocates say Alabama falls behind when it comes to public transportation. And with more federal dollars expected from the American Rescue Plan Act, 81 organizations wrote a letter asking the state leaders to use the money for exactly that.

Alabama is one of three states that don’t allocate state funds to public transportation. The state does have a public transportation trust fund that was created in 2018.

“There is zero dollars, so we have no money in the trust fund,” said Robyn Hyden, executive director of Alabama Arise.

Alabama Arise and other organizations want to see $20 million allocated towards the fund.

“It would allow us to increase routes and coverage and even the hours of coverage,” said Hyden. “Another way is to increase staffing.”

Hyden says it’s not just urban areas like downtown Montgomery that need improved public transportation, but that rural areas probably need it more.

“For smaller communities that don’t have a large tax base, they really don’t have any way to raise funds that they need to bring in more federal investment to bring public transportation to their residents,” said Hyden.

Chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, Rep. Steve Clouse, R-Ozark, says there is already a list of items the money could go towards.

“If we appropriate all that money to water and sewer projects, it still wouldn’t be enough,” he said. “Same with rural broadband. I mean, there’s just so many needs.”

Hyden is calling upon local leaders to use their ARPA funds to try to meet their public transportation needs.

“And see about local plans that exist and local programs and services that are underfunded in a suburban or rural county that may look different than what it looks like in an urban county,” she said.

Gov. Kay Ivey’s office says discussions regarding uses for the second round of ARPA money are ongoing, and nothing firm has been set for a special session.

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