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COTA prepares for major upgrades to transit system

Columbus is expected to get $149 million thanks to the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act over the next five years.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Central Ohio Transit Authority says it’s rolling in a new direction and it’s hoping you get on board.

“The concept of higher, faster, more frequent service is an absolute necessity for a modern city,” Joanna Pinkerton said.

Pinkerton, COTA’s president and CEO, along with Sen. Sherrod Brown and Federal Transit Agency Administrator, Nuria Fernandez, took a tour, Thursday, of a new proposed bus line that could soon be making its way to Columbus.

“It’s an exciting time to be in central Ohio,” she said. “But, it’s also time to invest in ourselves.”

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, or IIJA, will help public transit agencies across the country. It’s expected to bring more than $1.3 billion to Ohio. Columbus will get about $149 million of that over the next five years.

“We are committed to an equity agenda of reconnecting our neighborhoods in central Ohio, accommodating population growth,” Pinkerton said.

Other funding could come through LinkUS, which is a growth and mobility initiative to better connect communities with walking, biking and public transit.

“It’s good for the environment,” Sen. Brown said. “It’s good for people getting to work less expensively and efficiently and safely.”

But getting the necessary funding might be a roll of the dice.

COTA has applied for $300 million through the LinkUS grant. Potentially, it could raise as much as $2 billion by 2030 and $8 billion by 2050. In order to get that federal money, it has to get a local match, which means it will fall to the taxpayers.

“At some time, the COTA board of trustees will have to vote to put an initiative on the ballot,” Pinkerton said.

COTA says though it hasn’t been finalized, it could find its way in front of voters at a ballot box in the form of a sales tax.

COTA says it’s ready to move forward just as soon as voters give them the go ahead.

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