City seeks $2.6M grant for bus stop improvements

By HASKEL BURNS,

Hattiesburg’s Hub City Transit system could see a handful of improvements – including added sidewalks, pedestrian signals and crosswalks at certain bus stop locations – if the city is the recipient of a $2.61 million Federal Transit Administration grant.

Members of Hattiesburg City Council voted 5-0 Tuesday to authorize submission of the grant, which would come courtesy of the Buses and Bus Facilities Program.

“We’re targeting bus stops that we’ve had for a long time, that have not had any sidewalk access, to improve accessibility at those locations,” said Andrew Ellard, director of the city’s Urban Development Department. “There’s about 21 sites that we recruited in that, and they’re all over our system – anywhere from McInnis Loop to Highway 42.

“There are a couple along Hardy Street, one on Highway 98 west, and a good portion of the Highway 42 Bypass that’s included on there.”

The project would focus more on bus stops located in areas with a high concentration of residents – such as apartment complexes – as well as stops near high-employment centers.

The grant would include approximately $2.09 million in federal funds and a $523,200 local share, and the first 2.5 years of the initiative would involve project design and property acquisition. Officials are not sure when they will hear back on the status of the grant.

In a letter from Mayor Toby Barker to the Federal Transit Administration Office of Program Management, Barker said the addition of sidewalks will give residents and visitors the ability to safely travel to and from their homes to attend events, appointments and places of employment.

“Walkability and ridership go hand in hand,” Barker said. “If awarded, these grant funds will provide safer access to stops near large multi-family neighborhoods and areas with high concentrations of service industry employees.

“As mayor, I understand the requirements for the local match and am committed to budget necessary funds over the term of this grant.”

Hub City Transit offers a fixed-route service, which can be accessed for a small fee at any HCT bus stop in the city. There are seven routes throughout the city, all designated by color: Red (Country Club), Purple (Palmer’s Crossing), Orange (Broadway Drive), Green (4th Street), Gold (the University of Southern Mississippi), Brown (Mississippi 24) and Blue (Hardy Street).

HCT also offers a paratransit service, which is offered to senior citizens or individuals with disabilities. During Fiscal Years 2017 and 2018, the paratransit service completed a total of 12,237 trips consisting of more than 70,000 miles around the city.

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