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Budget Woes from COVID Expected, But Road Maintenance Resumes

Public transit ridership across the country has plummeted amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Adobe Stock)
Public transit ridership across the country has plummeted amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Adobe Stock)
September 8, 2020

FRANKFORT, Ky. -- Recent CARES Act funding gives sixteen public transit agencies needed cash to keep services running.

The more than $6 million will be used for operational expenses, including personal protective equipment, disinfection services, electronic ticketing and fuel purchases.

Chuck Wolfe, deputy executive director of the Office of Public Affairs for the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, said it's critical to keep the state's rural and urban transit workers on the road.

"These folks are out there really on the front line," Wolfe said. "They were servicing individuals who rely on public transit for their transportation. For a lot of people, for thousands of people. This is how they get to jobs, or they get to school, or they to medical appointments. They don't have transportation of their own. And so public transit is an essential service."

Wolfe noted the funding comes at a critical time, as public transit agencies across the Commonwealth grapple with drastically reduced ridership and revenue. The $6 million follows an earlier round of CARES Act transit funding this past spring, totaling more than $22 million.

Wolfe said at the start of the pandemic, the Cabinet did what many individual households began doing in response to economic uncertainty.

"Major purchases were put off and we suspended a good bit of our resurfacing work," Wolfe said. "There were 99 altogether resurfacing projects around the state; the contracts had been awarded. We then had to suspend them and the contractors had to agree to this as well."

He said the Cabinet now is operating on a one-year budget and has resumed road-maintenance contracts, but not at the same scale as before the pandemic.

"A lot of people in the contracting community depend on this for their livelihoods, and they want to keep their crews together, and those crews have families to support," Wolfe said. "And so, you see the whole ripple effect when something like this happens. It reverberates all through the economy."

Last month, Gov. Andy Beshear announced a $3 million award from the Federal Transit Administration that will allow ten public transit agencies across the Commonwealth to purchase replacement buses.

Nadia Ramlagan, Public News Service - KY