The CNMI will be receiving a $6.4-million grant from the Federal Transit Administration to further improve and modernize the Commonwealth’s public bus infrastructure.
The CNMI is the only U.S. territory that was awarded the grant, which totals $6,387,346. Part of the funds will be used to buy more buses to complete the fixed-flex route of Saipan’s public transport system.
The money is part of the $386.2 million the FTA gave out for bus systems in the U.S. The money will fund a total of 107 projects spread out in the 50 states, with the CNMI the lone U.S. jurisdiction outside the U.S. mainland, that would receive the funding from the FTA Buses and Bus Facilities Infrastructure Investment Program.
Commonwealth Office of Transit Authority executive director Alfreda Camacho welcomed the infusion of funds.
“This was a competitive grant which COTA successfully wrote and was selected as one of the 107 of 339 grant applications submitted. Again, this is the biggest amount in competitive grants that COTA has received. A huge success for us all in the CNMI,” Camacho told Saipan Tribune.
COTA activated the CNMI’s first public transportation route last April. It starts at the Northern Marianas College and ends at the Commonwealth Health Center. The bus cuts through Middle Road, goes around the Garapan tourist district, and back to NMC.
“We are very proud to receive this competitive grant award for the CNMI. It reflects our commitment to progress, by truly creating a public transportation system that is comprehensive and reaches the most undeserved and vulnerable areas in our community,” said Gov. Ralph DLG Torres. “Public transportation is a crucial step in alleviating poverty, and Alfreda [Camacho], and her hardworking team at COTA are doing their part to make it easier for folks to find a job, go to their medical appointments, or attend classes at [NMC].”
Included in the grant awarded to the CNMI is the construction of COTA’s maintenance facility and administrative building, 37 prefabricated solar bus shelters, and 12 American with Disabilities Act-compliant transit buses.
Camacho said COTA was fortunate to be able to work with their federal counterpart. “The [FTA] Region IX team has been right by our side ready to assist us.”
She added that public transportation is somewhat a new concept that will not happen overnight “but I am hopeful because of the outpouring of support we have been shown thus far.”
Camacho thanked Torres, her staff, and the cooperation of the Office of Grants Management and State Clearinghouse. “Thank you to all disability network partners, the 20th CNMI Legislature, the Office of Planning and Development, [NMC], Kagman Community Health Center, Karidat, and the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. for their support letters.”
U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao said the grants would help rebuild and modernize a safer bus system. The money would fund projects that would replace, rehabilitate, and purchase buses and related equipment, and to purchase, rehabilitate, and construct bus-related facilities.
FTA acting administrator K. Jane Williams added: “Bus transportation is the most widely available form of public transportation across the country. These grants are a significant step in achieving the administration’s goal of rebuilding our nation’s transportation infrastructure.”