Federal grants help connect veterans to their communities

Washington’s military veterans and their families will have better information about and access to reliable transportation options thanks to four federal grants totaling more than $400,000.

Hopelink, Paratransit Services, Human Services Council and Pierce County Community Connections will use the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) grants to make existing transportation options for vets just a mouse click or a phone call away.

The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) administers the four grants, part of $29 million in grants recently awarded to 64 projects in 33 states in the second round of the FTA’s Veterans Transportation and Community Living Initiative.

“A crucial part of our responsibility is making sure that reliable, efficient and affordable transportation services are available to everyone in our state,” said Brian Lagerberg, WSDOT’s director of public transportation. “These grants afford resources and services that provide veterans better, timelier access to transportation services. It keeps our veterans connected and helps them live actively in their communities.”

Grants awarded to transportation projects for veterans in Pierce County include:

— Paratransit Services, Snohomish, Pierce, Clallam, Jefferson, Kitsap, Mason, Grays Harbor, Pacific, Thurston and Lewis counties: A $50,000 grant will fund an outreach coordinator to raise awareness of transportation services, identify veterans’ resources to include on new electronic kiosks and make informational presentations to veterans groups about various transportation resources available in their communities;

— Pierce County Community Connections, Pierce County: A $77,400 grant will pay for a new Web server and website for a one-call/one-click center on the United Way South Sound 211 system, which provides resources and access to social services. The grant also will help fund outreach to veterans and their families in updating coordinated transportation plan for providing accessible services for seniors, people with disabilities or those with limited income.

The state’s grant recipients worked with WSDOT and the Agency Council on Coordinated Transportation to identify needs and develop coordinated proposals. These rural and nonprofit transportation providers then submitted proposals to WSDOT for review before sending grant applications to the FTA.

The FTA’s Veterans Transportation and Community Living Initiative helps local governments and transit agencies better use communications technology, such as smartphone apps and real-time bus locator information, to make it easier for veterans and others to access and schedule rides on buses, vans, taxis and other transportation systems.

“Ensuring that our veterans and military families have access to quality, convenient transportation is just one way we can thank them for their service,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary LaHood. “With these transportation grants, we will help connect veterans and military families with the jobs and training opportunities they deserve, as well as the medical care and other services they need, all located close to home.”

WSDOT’s Public Transportation Division administers this and other federal and state transportation grant programs in Washington state.