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Senator Brian Schatz unveils $576,000 in federal funds for Hele-On buses


U.S. Senator Brian Schatz announced on Wednesday (April 4) that the County of Hawai’i will be awarded $576,000 in federal funds to purchase new accessible buses.

The award by the U.S. Department of Transportation will go to the Hawai’i County Mass Transit Agency, which operates the Hele-On bus system islandwide.

“This investment in public transportation will improve people’s commutes, reduce traffic and costs to road maintenance, and help shrink our carbon footprint,” said Senator Schatz in a statement.

The Democratic Senator from Hawai’i is a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Mayor Harry Kim expressed deep gratitude to Senator Schatz for this timely award to buy Americans with Disabilities Act-accessible buses.

“These funds come at a very critical time for us, as we are trying to improve our level of service to the people who rely on our Mass Transit system,” Mayor Kim said. “We are really grateful to the Senator for seeing the need and securing the funds to help achieve this.”

The County had applied for a federal grant to purchase up to six replacement accessible buses, whose capacity was 15 to 26 seats each. The grant involves an 80-20 match, meaning that the federal funds pay for 80 percent of the purchase, and County funds make up the rest. The $576,000 secured by Senator Schatz will be matched by a 20 percent County match of $144,000.

According to Mass Transit Administrator Maria Aranguiz, the County was in dire need of these smaller-sized buses. The assumed cost of the buses is $120,000 to $140,000 each.

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