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Area transit improvements happening thanks to federal stimulus money
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Transit improvements are either under way or on their way throughout Northeast Georgia.

The Georgia Department of Transportation has used $8.25 million in federal stimulus money to buy 200 shuttle buses and vans for rural transportation systems throughout the state, including several for governments surrounding Hall County.

“These vehicles ... will allow rural providers to continue providing this important service at a time when economic challenges face all of us, while at the same time supporting jobs in manufacturing and distribution,” said DOT Commissioner Vance C. Smith Jr.

Three counties will receive 11-passenger shuttle vans with a wheelchair lift, with Dawson County getting three; Forsyth County, four; and Jackson and Habersham counties, one.

Dawson received two new buses last week to replace two older models that had topped 100,000 miles, said Margie Weaver, director of the Dawson County Senior Center.

The center oversees public transportation in the county. The buses are valued at about $45,000 each.

“We’ll also be awarded a third new bus later on this year that we’ll receive through another grant that we applied for this year,” Weaver said.

The buses, she said, are particularly important to older members of the community because they help them “get to the doctor, to buy their groceries and to buy their medications.”

The DOT shipped out some of the first buses to the Coastal Regional Commission to help start up a transit service in Bulloch County.
Vehicle deliveries will continue over the next six to 12 months, DOT officials have said.

Hall Area Transit, a public transportation system that has served Gainesville-Hall County since 1983, plans to use $600,000 in stimulus funding acquired last year on items that should largely beef up technology, said director Phillippa Lewis Moss.

The money will be used, among other things, to update software and computers and add vehicle security cameras, bike racks and enunciators, or voice recordings that announces bus stops to especially help those who are visually impaired.

Also, the transit plans to buy “mobile data terminals,” a computerized system that shows “where all the vehicles are at any given moment,” Moss said.

“We’re thrilled to have these dollars because these are the type of technological upgrades that we can only wish for,” she said.

Moss said she the new technology must be ordered by Dec. 31 and should be delivered to Hall County between April and June.