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Sen. Johnson Discusses Transportation Bill

February 21, 2012, 5:53 PM by David Brown

Sen. Johnson Discusses Transportation Bill
SIOUX FALLS, SD - Public transportation across the state of South Dakota could get a big boost. 

Senator Tim Johnson is heading up a bi-partisan effort to increase funding within the state. And transportation officials from across South Dakota had a chance to give their ideas straight to the Senator.

For the afternoon downtime, Sioux Area Metro buses aren't moving anywhere. But the discussion on how to best use them was in full gear.

"More and more people are due to rely on transit systems,"  Johnson said.

Johnson held a roundtable discussion Tuesday afternoon to gather ideas and highlight points in his public transportation bill. As one component of a larger highway bill, it would increase funding by nearly $2.5 million next year in South Dakota alone.

"The funding was difficult because it was more or less flat," Johnson said.

"We need dedicated, reliable funding so we know what's there," Sioux Area Metro general manager Karen Walton said.

The demand for public transportation is up in Sioux Falls, but members of the roundtable believe the key to the future of public transportation is hitting the rural areas of the state.

"A lot of these counties don't have a huge population and they're going dead," Walton said.

"Funding was cut and we did have to cut our drivers' hours and services to the people," Winnie Jo Johns of the South Dakota Rural Office of Community Services said. "So this bill would greatly help."

The Senate legislation was a response to a House bill that was universally panned by transportation officials. And Johnson believes, through discussions like the one held Tuesday, a compromise can be reached.

"I hope South Dakota will come out better than most," Johnson said.

Johnson doesn't know the timetable for when a deal can be reached. The Senate bill is currently being debated.

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