Transit group almost official

By Bryan Richardson

The Flint Hills Regional Transit Administration almost had its first official meeting Wednesday.

The meeting was an unofficial organizational session because the state attorney general still hasn’t signed off on the interlocal agreement needed to make the group official.

The transit administration includes officials from Riley, Pottawatomie and Geary counties, Manhattan, Junction City and Kansas State University.

Gary Stith of the Flint Hills Regional Council said the delay came because the attorney general asked for the agreement to be tweaked.

“We want to move forward quickly on this because there’s a big pot of money sitting out there that we can get access to for transit services,” he said.

As an urbanized area of more than 50,000 people, the Manhattan area is eligible for Federal Transit Administration funds called 5307 funds for transit projects.

Stith said the region became eligible this past year with $900,000 from this year still waiting to be used and $919,000 coming the upcoming year.

“You are the ones that will be making the decisions about the use of funds,” he said.

Instead of going through the Kansas Department of Transportation, an organization wanting these funds will now come through the administration instead.

ATA Bus director Anne Smith said the change provides additional flexibility in choices.

“The local control aspect is helpful,” she said. “We’ll plan locally. We’ll be able to make the decisions locally.”

Smith said it also adds more money. She said the federal share ATA Bus received from its current designation was $600,000.

Joel Skelley, state multimodal planner for KDOT, provided some guidelines for the regional group to consider.

He said these funds are for general public transportation.

The first official meeting is scheduled to take place April 16 immediately after the Flint Hills Metropolitan Planning Organization meeting.

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