State Grant to Help Cleveland RTA Rail System

Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority plans to use a $15.3 million state grant to help pay to buy new buses and a rail car.

Funding for just one rail car might not seem like much, but RTA officials said that having another $6 million to spend on preventative maintenance for buses and rail cars will free money obtained from a federal grant to be used instead to rebuild track for the agency’s rail lines.

RTA plans to spend $5 million of the state grant for rail car replacement and $3.67 million on new buses.

It will also spend $660,000 to purchase property adjacent to the East 79th Street station on the Red Line in preparation for an expansion project.

Mike Schipper, RTA’s deputy general manager of engineering, described the rail car funding as a piece of a larger funding puzzle the agency is trying to solve as it seeks to replace a rail car fleet that is nearing the end of its useful service life.

A consultant’s report earlier this year put the cost of rail car replacement at $240 million or about $3 million to $4 million per car.

“It’s a multi-year funding source approach,” Schipper said. “But it will allow us to get started. And certainly the $5 million that we got in this program is another step in getting us to where we can get started on replacing the rail cars.”

He said RTA is working on a rail car funding replacement plan that won’t require a tax increase.

RTA hopes to land $55 million in future state funding, and has lined up another $58 million from a mix of local grants, reserve funds and expected federal grants.

That means RTA still needs to find another $122 million for rail car fleet replacement.

“We will fund the rail cars through other mechanisms. And since we’re almost halfway there with a year’s worth of work, we’ll figure out how to get there,” Schipper said.

The grant money awarded to RTA is part of $70 million in new public-transit money in the state transportation budget.

The Ohio Department of Transportation said RTA’s award was part of $58.4 million in state funding for urban transit agencies and $3.5 million for rural agencies awarded this week.

Other large grants awarded include $7.6 million to the Central Ohio Transit Authority in Columbus and $5 million to the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority in Cincinnati..

An additional $35 million of Federal Transit Administration funding was awarded to Ohio’s 38 rural transit systems.

The largest of those awards was $2.5 million in state and federal funding to Athens Public Transit.

GoBus, an intercity bus service administered by Hocking Athens Perry Community Action’s Transportation Division, got $4.4 million in federal funding.

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