TRANSPORTATION UPDATE 5-15-13
Co-coordinator of the Local Mobility Management Network (LMMN), JoAnn Wolters, presented the Salmon City Council, May 15, with an update on efforts towards transportation and pathways for this area.
She said the Federal Land Access Grant (FLAG) supported by Lemhi County and being submitted by the Salmon Valley Stewardship along with Alternate Mobility is currently a high priority. The grant focus is on connecting the city to public Bureau of Land Management lands by way of pathways and bike paths. Potential trails from the city outward are shown on the city’s Comprehensive Plan. Obtaining the FLAG grant would help turn some of the potentials into reality. Wolters said chances look good at this point and results should be known sometime in June.
She said the Map 21 funds are for vans and buses and also for trails that are related to economic development in that they will encourage visitors to the area. Local resident Max Lohmeyer known for his work with mountain biking and the Youth Employment Program, travelled to Washington DC in April and met with Idaho’s Congressional people about securing Map 21 funds for this area. Wolters said that Senator Mike Crapo was especially helpful and that the senator’s Boise staff is continuing to work with Lohmeyer. Salmon and Lemhi County are high on the list for funding because of the large amount of federal land located within the county plus the need for ways to boost the economy.
The Inter-city Connection is another priority that has emerged within the last month due to the Targhee Regional Public Transportation Authority (TRPTA) announcement there will be no more bus runs to Idaho Falls. As a result the state has opened inter city services in the top twenty rural communities which need transportation connections to cities. Salmon is in the top twenty and Idaho Falls is listed as the nearest in-state city. Wolters said that the Salt Lake Express is interested in this area and is going to be submitting requests for grant funds to establish a scheduled route between Salmon and Idaho Falls. Since the company already operates routes in Montana the plan is to also provide transportation between Salmon and Missoula. The new routes could eventually connect Salt Lake Express, Greyhound and the National Bus System allowing for seamless travel to and from Salmon in all directions. Wolters said Salt Lake Express will be asking for local letters of support from elected officials and residents as it proceeds into the grant bidding process. She encouraged the city to respond when asked.
Wolters said TRPTA did not apply for any grants this year to fund transportation but due to over bidding has funding to carry through 2014. The company has recently raised its local rates to $6.00 a ride inside the city limits which means a trip to and from the grocery store will cost the rider $12.00. Annual ridership has dropped from 12,000 to 8,000. Wolters said local officials have repeatedly asked for a breakdown of expenses the company incurs in supplying the local service and for its statistics. Wolters said, “For some reason that has been impossible to get.” Lemhi County Commissioner Chairman John Jakovac is on the TRPTA Board and he will be resubmitting the request. She said that since according to TRPTA the books are not kept that way it will take time to get the information.
The purpose of obtaining the local statistics is to use them in applying for transportation grants to establish a local service. Both the city and the county have for years made annual payments to TRPTA to help supplement the local transportation service.
Wolters said the Community Transportation Association of Idaho (CTAI) is providing local driver and van maintenance training. The free training is available because both the city and county are dues paying members of CTAI. She also said the Lemhi County Economic Development Association (LCEDA) is about to take over administration of the recently received After Hours grant. After Hours will provide funding for the two local transport vans to begin serving residents when TRPTA vans are off the clock. Wolters said the Lost Trail Ski Resort is looking forward to hiring the vans for four runs a week next winter to transport employees and skiers. She said the hope is that in the course of providing transportation the local vans will also be providing full time jobs at decent wages.
Wolters brought up the possibility of a grant related to air transportation. She said the noticeably large hole in air transportation for this area has drawn the attention of the Rural Air Service Development Grant Program and applying for one of their grants has been recommended. If the decision is made to go after it letters of support will be needed. There is also a possibility of funding through that program for ground as well as air transport. She promised to keep the council apprised of developments.
In addition to being the local LMMN co-coordinator Wolters is a board member of the Community Transportation Association of Idaho, and a local representative on the Idaho Transportation Department’s Idaho Mobility and Access Pathway Program.
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