Public transit improvements seen aiding SeacoastBy GRETYL MACALASTER
Union Leader Correspondent
September 06. 2012 11:07PM
KITTERY, Maine - Improvements in public transit will continue to boost economic growth in the Seacoast Region, Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff said during a visit to the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard on Wednesday.
During his visit, he announced the expansion of express commuter bus service that will improve transit options and make it easier for civilian and military personnel to get to work at the shipyard and Pease International Tradeport, two of the area's largest employment sectors.
The federal Department of Transportation is providing more than $3.5 million for transportation improvements in the region, including $2.6 million to COAST to increase the frequency of regional bus routes to every 30 minutes during peak commuting periods, $640,000 for the newly expanded Clipper Connection commuter bus service to and from the shipyard and Pease, and $324,000 for COAST to improve access to transportation services for veterans and military families through a 'one-click, one-call' information center.
The $2.6 million grant is being matched by the New Hampshire Turnpike Authority as part of the Little Bay Bridge rehabilitation project, and the Clipper Connection grant is being matched by funds provided by the U.S. Navy.
Rogoff said the partnership with the shipyard is an example to other military installations that such a partnership is workable.
'This region is on the grow. It's a pocket of economic growth in a struggling economy, and you've got the congestion, the transportation challenges that come with it. And rather than just being overwhelmed by it, the people in this region … are putting together more choices, partnering with USDOT,' Rogoff said.
He said federal and local investments are needed to stay on top of that growth and to maintain the quality of life for all people in the region.
He said providing transportation options also helps keep money in the pockets of workers.
'Just by taking the bus and leaving their truck or car parked at home, a family can save thousands of dollars to put into school clothes, to put into groceries, to just make covering the bills easier,' Rogoff said.
Rogoff was joined by COAST Executive Director Rad Nichols, Portsmouth Naval Shipyard Deputy Director of Public Works John Wyeth, Kittery Town Manager Robert Markel and Portsmouth Assistant Mayor Robert Lister.
The $324,000 grant was first announced in November, but the funding was made available Wednesday through the Federal Transit Administration's Veterans Transportation and Community Living Initiative, a program to help veterans, military families and others connect to jobs and services through improved local transportation options. The COAST project is one of 86 projects over two years that were selected to receive funding as part of the grant program.
Rogoff said there are about 46,000 veterans in the region, and although transportation options exist, there was no one place for veterans to figure out those options.
The Clipper Connection service was first rolled out in January, and shipyard employee John Joyal of Somersworth said he has been using it ever since.
He said unlike many urban buses, the riders form a community and have conversations to and from work, while also saving wear and tear on their vehicles, reducing commute times and reducing their carbon footprint.
Rogoff said every federal study his agency has done shows that when a service can be provided more frequently, riders see it as a more reliable service. Before the grant, buses ran about every hour during peak times.
- - - - - - - -
Gretyl Macalaster may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.