DOT expedites transit funds for Katrina recovery

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The U.S. Department of Transportation announced that the Federal Transit Administration will allow transit agencies affected by Hurricane Katrina to — until further notice — make use of federal funds to buy supplies, repair buses or equipment or begin reconstruction without having to use matching local funds.

Some transit agencies took immediate advantage of the new flexibility, DOT reported. For example, DOT provided $6.1 million to the Mississippi Department of Transportation for 22 different transit bus operators to buy new buses, pay salaries and cover other necessities for restoring services.

The usual 20 percent local match will be deferred on a case-by-case basis for communities in the disaster area as well as for those impacted by the influx of evacuees, DOT Secretary Norman Mineta said. The deferred amount must be paid back by the grantee when local economic conditions improve.

The funds can be used to make hurricane-related repairs, to pay for maintenance needed to restore service, to replace damaged vehicles, or to pay for new and expanded transit services needed to transport evacuees.