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Leech Lake slated for $474,000 for transit program

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news Bemidji, 56619
Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

Federal grants will bring bus service to two Minnesota American Indian reservations, U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar said Thursday.

The U.S. Transportation Department awarded a $474,000 grant to the Leech Lake Tribal Council to start up bus service with three new vehicles, Oberstar said.

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The Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe was awarded $285,000 to buy buses and build a garage.

Meanwhile, the House's fiscal year 2010 omnibus appropriations bill includes $30 million for 22 Minnesota projects, a bill that won House approval Thursday.

"People in rural areas pay more for transportation than those who live in our cities," said Oberstar of the transit grants. "The distances you have to travel to run errands like a trip to the doctor or the grocery store are much greater than in urban areas, that means you pay more for vehicle maintenance and gas, while access to public transportation is limited."

Oberstar said the programs "will specifically benefit elders who are living on the reservation who now have to depend on friends and family to get around."

DOT on Thursday made grant awards to 102 transit projects, totaling $32 million, on Indian reservations across the nation, said Oberstar, chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. More than half the funding for the program came from federal economic stimulus funds.

The federal omnibus spending bill funds nine government agencies in fiscal year 2010. The House earlier this year passed individual appropriations bills but the Senate consolidated the spending bills into one so it would have more time to focus on health care reform.

The Senate is expected to pass its version of the spending bill this weekend.

"This bill includes funding for many important programs in northeast Minnesota," said Oberstar. "We will be creating new jobs, investing in law enforcement and public safety in our communities and funding important research programs. We will see returns on these investments for many years to come."

Transportation projects in the bill include $500,000 for the Northern Lights Express rail project between Duluth and the Twin Cities and $730,500 for Park Rapids street and utility reconstruction on Main Avenue.

Law enforcement projects include $500,000 for the Itasca County 911 radio system, $100,000 for the 9th Judicial District's DUI/substance abuse court in Koochiching County and $240,000 for the Minnesota State Patrol in the 8th Congressional District for in-squad digital cameras.

Construction funding includes $15 million for a jet fuel storage complex at Duluth International Airport and $1.71 million for an urban assault course at Camp Ripley, used by the Minnesota National Guard.

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