The federal government has awarded a local transit system more than $1.6 million to help it provide transportation on the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation and across the region.
U. S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced Wednesday nearly $2.9 million in grants was awarded to fund an array of highway-related efforts in Montana, with the largest award going to Fort Beknap.
Fort Belknap will receive more than $1.647 million for completion of a maintenance facility for its transit system, which transports residents of the reservation and connects with the North Central Montana Transit system and travels as far as Great Falls on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Loren “Bum” Stiffarm, CEO of the Fort Belknap Indian Community, said a meeting was being held this morning to discuss the grant, but was not available for additional comment by deadline this morning.
The transit system runs through the reservation Monday through Friday, starting at 6:50 a. m. at the Chief Nosey Center in Lodge Pole and its last run returning from the Fort Belknap Agency and depositing its passengers at the Chief Nosey Center at 5:55 p. m. The system connects with the North Central Transit System, which runs from Fort Belknap to Havre and to Box Elder.
A Fort Belknap vehicle is used in the North Central Montana Transit trips to Great Falls on Tuesdays and Thursdays, starting in Fort Belknap, running through Havre and Box Elder to Great Falls in the morning, and reversing its trip in the afternoon.
Other Montana projects announced Wednesday were: expansion of Blackfeet U. S. Highway 89 Interpretive Turnout, $649,250; specialized training to help students at Salish Kootenai College prepare for careers in highway construction in Pablo, $350,000; Montana Department of Transportation program to prepare Disadvantaged Business Enterprise firms to compete for federal highway contracts, $104,018; feasibility study of nonmotorized connection between Missoula and Lola Trail, $100,000; and purchase and placement of an historic bridge over North and South 25th streets to improve bike and pedestrian safety in Billings, $54,457.
The grants were made through a discretionary program created by Congress to give the Federal Highway Administration the ability to support projects that maintain the nation’s roads and bridges, improve roadway safety and make communities more livable, the release announcing the award said.
“Transportation investments like these will create jobs and improve the quality of life for Montana residents as well as strengthen the state’s economy," LaHood said in the release. "The demand from the states for these funds shows just how critical the need is for infrastructure investment. ”
“At a time when states are facing serious budgetary constraints, these grants will help fill a critical need, ” said Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez. “Investments like these are immediate and long-lasting, and will help create jobs. ”