Bus money rolls into town Thursday

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— Thanks in part to some friends in high places, a $1 million transit grant the city was promised by the federal government last year will be released this Thursday.

The city, which is part of the Colorado Transit Coalition, received $1 million of the approximately $10 million appropriated for transit in Colorado, a tremendous accomplishment for a city of Steamboat's size, said Transit Director George Krawzoff.

The money will go toward the purchase of five buses and a van, all of which will be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The city settled an ADA lawsuit filed by two Steamboat Springs men who said they were denied equal bus service as mandated in the act. The city agreed, under a consent decree with the U.S. Justice Department, to have a fully compliant fleet by the winter of 2002-2003. During the upcoming summer, the city will be fully compliant because its bus service is on a reduced schedule and during next winter will only use its non-compliant buses in overflow situations. The federal grant has made the process of getting the city to full compliance much faster, Krawzoff said.

The city has to match the grant to the tune of $200,000.

The city ordered the vehicles before having received the expected grant money, a practice which the city undertakes at its own risk. Krawzoff said the consequences of a shortfall could have been dire.

"I'd have to have my kid out on the corner selling lemonade and cookies for the next 20 years," Krawzoff said jokingly.

Krawzoff thanked U.S. Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell and U.S. Sen. Wayne Allard for their help in getting the money. The Colorado Transit Coalition also employs a lobbyist to help it get federal grants for the state.

Campbell's spokesperson, James Doyle, said the senator, who is on the Senate Appropriations Committee and on the transit subcommittee, knew of Steamboat's efforts to get enough money to buy ADA compliant buses. That's why he specifically pushed to get the $1 million for the city, Doyle said. Campbell's position on the appropriations committee gave him the power to help the city meet its needs, he added.

"Growing cities like Steamboat Springs, especially with the huge seasonal population, absolutely have to have mass transit," Doyle said.

Doyle said Campbell has been able to get $25 million over the past three years for transit in Colorado.

The city is already working on getting another $1 million grant for next year, a process in which Doyle said the senator will be involved. Krawzoff said the money would go toward expanding the city's current fleet.

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