OKLAHOMA CITY (Aug. 26, 2020) - Help is on the way for Oklahoma’s public transit providers that have been impacted by decreased ridership and higher operational costs due to COVID-19. Governor Kevin Stitt along with Secretary of Transportation and Oklahoma Department of Transportation Executive Director Tim Gatz announced Wednesday that $6 million in federal CARES Act funding will be directed to ODOT for the Protect Transit project, which includes purchase of Personal Protective Equipment and cleaning supplies for public transit agencies statewide.
"This funding is essential for helping Oklahoma’s transit operators weather this storm while continuing to provide their service to the public,” said Gov. Stitt. “ODOT works with transit providers on a daily basis, so we already have good relationships and systems in place to identify the greatest needs and get these supplies delivered quickly.”
This funding will help public transit agencies statewide continue to provide PPE to drivers and routinely disinfect the buses and vans in their fleets. Equipment and supplies available to transit providers through ODOT ranges from hand sanitizer, masks and disposable gloves to industrial foggers for vehicle decontamination and partitions that can be installed to protect drivers.
“Public transit is extremely important to our communities and provides transportation for some of Oklahoma’s most vulnerable populations to get to work or the doctor,” said Gatz. “This $6 million will protect drivers and riders by reducing the spread of the virus and allowing Oklahomans to ride confidently.”
Oklahoma legislators praised the allocation of the CARES Act funds, citing the important role transportation plays in the success of the state.
“Public transportation is vital to Oklahomans both in small towns and in our metropolitan areas,” said Senate Transportation Chairman Rob Standridge, R-Norman. “This CARES funding will help our state’s public transportation systems continue to provide the services our citizens rely on in a safe way during this pandemic.”
“The Oklahoma Department of Transportation has been working to make sure public transit drivers and riders have the personal protective equipment they need during this public health crisis,” said House Transportation Committee Chairman Avery Frix, R-Muskogee. “I know these funds will help them in their endeavors and ensure money already dedicated to other transportation projects is used for its original intent.”
Requests for PPE will be prioritized by ODOT, focusing on uniquely challenged rural transit operators first, along with organizations that provide transportation for the elderly and individuals with disabilities. The department administers funds to 20 rural transit agencies and more than 130 organizations that provide mobility services to elderly and disabled Oklahomans. Large urban transit agencies, like Tulsa Transit and EMBARK in Oklahoma City, receive federal funding, including CARES Act funds, directly.
A map of public transit operators in Oklahoma can be found at http://ow.ly/XiRe50B9BTR.
Transit providers may contact the ODOT Procurement Division at 405-521-2708 to receive a PPE request form beginning today. Requests will be taken until funds have been exhausted. The department will allocate its portion of CARES Act funding by the end of 2020.
Additional comments from legislative leaders:
“This is huge for Oklahoma. Citizens throughout the state rely on local public transportation for work, medical appointments and other essentials. This funding will help with the cost of keeping those transportation systems running and safe for their passengers.” – Senate Appropriations Chairman Roger Thompson, R-Okemah
“Public transit is an absolute necessity in all areas of Oklahoma, and particularly helpful for those of lower incomes who quite frankly are among those hardest hit by this pandemic. I’m thankful for the governor being willing to release some of these funds to ODOT to be used for equipment that will help in keeping the riders and drivers of our public transit system safe.” – House Appropriations and Budget Committee Chairman Kevin Wallace, R-Wellston