Connect Transit in Bloomington-Normal is getting close to rolling out its new bus route plan. General Manager Andrew Johnson says that should happen late this month and in early June with a series of open houses.
"I don't expect the route restructuring to be quite as dramatic as the initial proposal was. There will be a bit more streamlining. There will be some changes that are significant to some people. But, overall, it's streamlining things and making a few logical changes that will allow the buses to stay on time."
Johnson says the new route structure should not inconvenience most people now using the system. The initial proposal last year drew some criticism, particularly from those with physical disabilities who feared a loss of access. The staff recommendation on the new plan is due Friday and Johnson says there will be a two week advance notice of a series of town hall meetings to explain the proposal to the public and get feedback. Connect Transit hopes to implement the new structure by the start of school in the fall.
Johnson also says it now looks like Congress will kick the can down the road for two or three years before ironing out a new transportation bill. He notes lawmakers will eventually have to act to find a new revenue source because the highway trust fund could be empty by the end of 2014..
"We will not have a new transportation bill right away when we are supposed to. I also think that the government will find a way one way or another to fund at least at the current levels or maybe slightly below that, but not dramatically below that."
Federal fuel taxes no longer raise enough money to pay for road repairs, transit, and aviation in the national transportation network. The current transportation bill runs through September of 2014 and Congress has been appropriating amounts that match that measure in spite of ongoing debate over budget austerity versus economic health.
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