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Minn. grants nearly $24 million to grow rural transit

Minnesota Transportation Commissioner Charlie Zelle listens to a question Monday, Jan. 26, 2015, as he helps introduced a transportation funding plan. (Forum News Service photo by Don Davis)

ST. PAUL — Bus services throughout greater Minnesota could add up to 100,000 service hours with extra funding from a new state grant.

Lt. Gov. Tina Smith and Transportation Commissioner Charlie Zelle announced a $23.7 million in grants to expand transit services throughout the state on Thursday, March 30.

The grants will be divvied among 23 bus service providers.

Individual grants range from $47,300 to the Hibbing bus system to $4 million for St. Cloud Metro Transit.

Rural Minnesota's transit ridership increased nearly 13 percent between 2010 and 2014, a surge Smith said demonstrates a need for more funding.

"Transportation in general, and transit in particular, is about connecting people: connecting them to their jobs, to their doctors and to their communities," she said. "We want to help communities deliver on that with these grants."

The funding comes from a combination of sources, including Minnesota's General Fund, the Federal Transit Administration's rural and small urban transit program, and the Greater Minnesota Transit Fund, which is part of the state's motor vehicle sales and leasing taxes.

The grant will cover about half of the applications the state received.

Zelle said applicants who did not receive funding could see grants later on.

"We'd had a number of rural and greater Minnesota operations that did not receive funding this grant round, but that doesn't mean they're not eligible or won't see funding later," he said.

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