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Inouye presents largest transportation grant to a neighbor island

MEDIA RELEASE

U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye presented a check for $7.2 million to the County of Hawaii for seven new 45-passenger buses and major improvements to the county’s Mass Transit Agency facilities on Saturday, Oct. 16.

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) grants represent the largest amount ever provided to a Neighbor Island for public transportation improvement projects.

Mayor Billy Kenoi and Mass Transit Agency Director Tom Brown accepted the check from Senator Inouye in a brief ceremony outside the County building at 25 Aupuni Street, Hilo.

Also attending were Council members Guy Enriques (6th District), Emily Naeole-Beason (5th District) and Dennis “Fresh” Onishi (4th District).

Enriques and Naeole-Beason praised Inouye for his efforts to improve transportation for the residents of their rural districts.

“In Ka‘u we come the longest way to drive to Kona and Hilo. We are going to need these buses desperately. I thank-you, this is a dream come true for Ka‘u.” Enriques said. “This shows that our County’s efforts to work in partnership and collaboration with our Congressional delegation and federal agencies provide invaluable services and benefits to our community.”

Inouye said the safe and timely transportation of our residents and visitors is critical to maintaining a healthy economy.

“These funds will help people on the Big Island get to and from work while reducing traffic congestion and limiting the impact fossil fuels have on the environment,” he said.

A $5 million State of Good Repair Grant from FTA, a division of the U.S. Department of Transportation, includes $4 million for new administration offices and base yard for the County’s Mass Transit Agency in Hilo.

The new County mass transit offices will provide easy access to a central location where the public can visit or call to obtain transit services and information. The base yard will enable the county to better house and maintain the transit agency’s growing fleet of buses.

The State of Good Repair Grant also includes $1 million for the purchase of three new 45-passenger buses with wheelchair access, bicycle racks and passenger security features that will continue to improve the County’s free, island-wide bus services for island residents.

An additional $2.2 million federal earmark from the FTA’s transit capital investment program will be used to purchase four additional new 45-passenger buses for the County’s transportation fleet. The grant will also used to purchase bus stop and bus shelter materials.

“This $7.2 million grant is a huge appropriation for our County and recognizes our efforts at building and enhancing the largest transportation system in the State of Hawaii,” Kenoi said. “We are very grateful for the help provided by our senior Senator Inouye and his staff in obtaining this valuable assistance for our residents.”

The county’s free, island-wide bus system is rapidly growing. In Fiscal Year 2009-2010, 1.1 million passengers boarded Hawaii Island’s Hele-On buses, an 18 percent increase from the previous year.

“The new buses and the administrative and base yard improvements will have a tremendous positive impact on our mass transit system, allowing more people to use the system and to help us address increasing demand for our services,” said Tom Brown, Mass Transit Agency director.

“The growing demands of our residents traveling between East and West Hawaii, connecting the Ka‘u and Ocean View districts with Hilo and Kona, North Kohala and Kona, and between upper and lower Puna to Hilo, will be addressed with the new buses,” Brown said.

“With the generous support from Senator Inouye,” Kenoi said, “we are continuing to follow through on our commitment to expand our transit system.”

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