COLUMBUS, OH – U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Federal Transit Administration (FTA) Acting Administrator Carolyn Flowers officially delivered $37 million to the Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA) for the CMAX Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project. Brown and Flowers joined COTA President/CEO Curtis Stitt and donna Hicho, executive director of the Greater Linden Development Corporation, for a grant signing ceremony at COTA’s Linden Transit Center this morning.
“Today we’re marking the start of a project that will begin to transform the way we travel in Columbus,” Brown said. “We know that one of the most important things we can do to grow local economies is to invest in our infrastructure – including public transit. This grant will finally provide COTA the certainty they need, not just to begin the CMAX project, but to finish it, and to plan for the future.”
“The Cleveland Avenue BRT will make a huge difference for thousands of commuters in the Cleveland Avenue corridor who are enduring standing-room only buses stuck in traffic,” said FTA Acting Administrator Carolyn Flowers. “When the BRT line opens, commuters will have a fast and convenient way to get to school, work, medical appointments and other destinations.”
“Transit plays a critical role in connecting Americans to economic opportunity – that’s true in Ohio and around the country,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “COTA’s new BRT line will strengthen and revitalize the communities it serves along Cleveland Avenue, connect residents of Columbus to education and jobs, and improve quality of life in the region.”
“COTA’s CMAX BRT will introduce new transit technology to our community – making service faster, more direct and more accessible,” said W. Curtis Stitt, COTA President/CEO. “We are extremely fortunate to be the recipient of a generous grant of $37 million from the Federal Transit Administration. Thank you to Senator Sherrod Brown and FTA Acting Administrator Carolyn Flowers for their support and leadership in funding the transportation that this community deserves.”
COTA CMAX will link the northeast suburbs with downtown Columbus, connecting residents to major employment centers, medical facilities, and educational institutions. CMAX service is planned to operate in existing peak-period bus-only lanes for one mile in downtown Columbus and in mixed traffic for the rest of the route. The project also includes 32 bus stops, construction of two park-and-ride lots, the purchase of 15 compressed natural gas buses, transit signal priority and next-bus arrival information for passenger platforms. The line is scheduled to open in January 2018 and will bring critical service to over 211,000 residents while encouraging economic development along the corridor.
After a proposed spending bill threatened to slash funding for the project last year, Brown – who serves as ranking member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, which oversees funding for the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) – helped secure the $37 million for the FTA to move the project forward. The federal grant funds are from the Small Starts funding category – which had been drastically cut in the initial appropriations bill – of the Capital Investment Grant (CIG) program. The CIG program is the federal government’s primary grant program for funding major transit projects.
Brown has also been a strong supporter of the City of Columbus’ Smart City Challenge application. Columbus is one of seven finalist cities competing in DOT Smart City Challenge, a competition that will award the winning city with $40 million to develop a first-of-its-kind transportation network. The winning city will be announced in June 2016.
Last month, Brown joined DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx, Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther, and U.S. Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-OH-3) to discuss the application. Last week, Brown and U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) led a letter from the entire Ohio delegation to Sec. Foxx urging him to award its Smart City Challenge grant to the city of Columbus. In January, Brown also sent a letter to Foxx and has also worked to highlight Columbus’ innovative application as the Smart Cities competition has progressed.