Missoula Urban Transit lands $5.9M in coronavirus relief funding

MISSOULA — The Missoula Urban Transit District will receive nearly $6 million in funding to help cover software upgrades to keep buses running on schedule and to increase messaging for Paratransit services.

The funding was announced on Wednesday by U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and followed Thursday by Sens. Jon Tester and Steve Daines, who called public transit a key piece of the nation’s transportation infrastructure.

“These funds are a critical investment that will help hard hit workers and state agencies keep the wolf away from the door and make sure infrastructure in rural America is not cast aside during this crisis,” Tester said.

Daines said the funding “will support the transportation needs of Montanans in Missoula during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The funding, part of the federal CARES Act, stems from $25 billion directed at the nation’s public transportation system. Montana received around $49 million in funding, and the Missoula Urban Transit District will receive $5.9 million.

Mountain Line General Manager Corey Aldredge said the agency has worked to implement new safety measures and policies that range from sanitizing buses to checking for face masks, which is now required of passengers.

“However, these new policies have a financial cost,” he said. “The CARES Act funding is not only helping us offset immediate capital needs, but is allowing us to put safeguards in place so we can continue providing essential service as we head into an uncertain economic future.”

Tester said the $48.9 million to Montana will be used to cover the operating expenses of transit agencies and their COVID-19 response. That includes reimbursement for operating costs to maintain service, lost revenue and the purchase of personal protective equipment.

It also covers the administrative leave of operations personnel due to reductions in service.

“These federal funds will support operating assistance to transit agencies of all sizes providing essential travel and supporting transit workers across the country who are unable to work because of the public health emergency,” said K. Jane Williams, the acting administrator of the Federal Transit Administration.

Montana airports have also received funding from the CARES Act.