Friday, February 27, 2009

St. Louis eyes stimulus funds to soften transit cuts

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Facing $45 million in service cuts targeted for light rail and bus operations by March 30, St. Louis officials are seeking ways to apply $12 million in federal stimulus funds to blunt the budget knife. The $12 million, if able to be applied to operations, "means that close to a quarter of the deficit will be resolved if this switch goes through, and that's going to go to restoring service," said D.J. Wilson, a spokesman for East West Gateway Council of Governments, in St. Louis.

Transport stimulus funds are to be applied to “shovel-ready” capital projects, but the Council of Governments is exploring ways to juggle funding sources to accommodate such operational support. One option is to “flex” $12 million earmarked for highway projects, officials said.

But Dianne Williams, a spokeswoman for the Bi-State Development Agency which operates Metro LRT and bus operations, said no decision has been made. “In terms of operating, the jury is still out on whether any funds can be directed toward Metro from some other source," Williams said. "Nothing is coming directly from the stimulus for operations."