Last week the federal government announced Tennessee qualifies for more than $72 million in stimulus funds for public transportation.
About $2 million of that will make its way into Rutherford County, if enough projects can be found within 90 days, Murfreesboro Public Transportation Director Bob Nugent said.
Nugent is currently working with the Nashville Area Metropolitan Planning Organization to come up with projects. The problem is, the projects must be shovel-ready within 90 days or the money goes back to the federal government.
“We’re trying to find a way to keep the $2 million in the local area,” Nugent said, adding Murfreesboro, Smyrna and La Vernge all qualify for the funds.
Nugent said Murfreesboro will have about $300,000 in stimulus projects ready to go within the 90 day deadline.
He said they could use the money to buy more buses and expand routes, but the city would have to fund additional drivers.
“If we don’t have the drivers, they’re no use,” he said.
So instead, Nugent is looking into capital projects and equipment upgrades that can get off the ground quickly, buying shelters for Rover stops and Global Positioning Systems for the big, green buses.
“The GPS would give us the ability to know where are buses are for customer service,” he said, adding the department has considered buying bus stop shelters for a while.
“We can buy them (shelters) and have them in place quickly,” he said.
He is also working with other local mass transit providers – like Smyrna, La Vergne and the Regional Transit Authority – to come up with ideas to spend the money.
“Hopefully we can come up with something. … We don’t want to see the money go back if we could use it,” he said.
Michelle Willard can be contacted at 615-869-0816 or firstname.lastname@example.org.