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City Utilities of Springfield was awarded a Federal Transit Administration grant of $7.6 million, U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Missouri, announced this week.
The grant is earmarked to help CU cover operating costs for its transit service amid the coronavirus pandemic. It's slated to be used to purchase personal protective equipment, pay operator salaries, buy fuel and for other needs, according to a news release from Blunt's office. No local match is required.
“Local public transportation is critical during this public health emergency,” said Blunt, a member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies, in the release. “Transit operators are not only essential themselves, they make sure other essential employees have a reliable way to get to work.
"This grant funding will help provide some relief from the financial strains the coronavirus has had on local transportation services."
CU spokesperson Joel Alexander this morning said rider traffic for the utility company's transit buses has begun to pick back up as coronavirus rules are lifted in the community.
The transit service implemented a modified schedule March 22 that's still being used, Alexander said. CU also is encouraging riders to practice social distancing, though an official occupancy requirement has not been set, he said.
"Transit is an essential need for many in the community. To provide safety for drivers and passengers, we provided masks to the drivers, installed a protective barrier and sanitizer on the buses," Alexander said via email.
The first downtown Springfield branch for Arvest Bank opened; a longtime licensed massage therapist became a first-time business owner; and 7 Brew Coffee opened its fourth shop in Springfield.