The Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) recently released a statewide list of transportation projects to be completed over the next four years, and within the list of grant projects, ODOT awarded approximately $1.1 million to Adams and Highland County FRS Transportation (FRST) in grant funding requiring local match funding to provide low-cost transportation to residents. This is the first time in either county’s history that public transportation services will be funded to this magnitude.
“In the past, Medicaid transportation to medical appointments was generally available and was used widely throughout the county,” Highland County Mobility Manager Joseph Adray said. “However, if a resident needed to go shopping, or pick up a prescription, or go to the beauty shop, or just wanted to have transportation to the movie theater there were no affordable solutions. So, this grant will provide affordable solutions to all the above problems,” Adray said.
The grant proposal was the result of several years of planning between the Highland Area Rural Transportation System (HARTS) Committee, Highland County Commissioners, FRST and regional economic development partners, including Ohio Valley Regional Development Commission (OVRDC) who helped provide resources for feasibility studies in support of the rural transit grant proposal.
FRST will use the grant funds to establish services and purchase vehicles for Rural Transit Service loop routes in Hillsboro and Greenfield, with a connecting route between the two largest population centers in the county. FRST will work with the HARTS Committee, ODOT, local governments, area agencies, businesses, and the general public to determine the best places for transit stops, schedules, and many more details. In the initial phase of the project, 2020 will be a planning year for the Adams County project with limited public transportation service available. The current target date to begin public transportation services is Spring 2020 with plans to have a broader transportation system available in Adams County by early 2021.
Adray said, “It is great that the [Highland] county has a partner like OVRDC that can assist us in bringing projects like this online [which will] eventually allow more freedom to move about and to increase economic development in Highland County. At the very least, it will allow for residents to have a choice concerning how they want to get around the county. It may also open up more employment opportunities for many residents, so we expect this grant to have a great impact on Highland County.”
OVRDC Transportation Planning Coordinator Stephanie Gilbert helped with the project. She said, “As a regional transportation planning organization (RTPO), we are thrilled to be able to offer a consulting service program to our members. It is a great way to leverage funding and encourage transportation investment in our region. We are excited to see transit services growing in Southern Ohio.”
The total list of ODOT transportation projects statewide totaled nearly $105 million in public transit investment, and the HARTS/FRST project comes as a direct result of ODOT’s quadrupling their investment in rural infrastructures and transit programs in rural counties. For people who need transportation to get to work, college, or training programs, the new low-cost public transit routes will mean more people will have access to employment and recreational opportunities and should be an incentive for continued economic growth in the county.