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New route could start by September

Forest Grove is close to fulfilling its longtime goal of a local public transit route that would serve the high school and other fixed locations, as well as personally requested route deviations.

Ride Connection, a nonprofit that provides accessible transportation to people in need, would operate the system, which would likely run weekdays only, from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Ride Connection has applied for $242,000 in federal grants through TriMet, which would cover operating costs and the purchase of two accessible, 14-passenger mini-buses.

Both grants were approved Friday by a subcommittee and go before the TriMet Board of Directors for final approval next Wednesday, Jan. 23.

In addition, Ride Connection will apply for a third federal grant, also through TriMet, to help set up the system.

“We’re very hopeful. We’ve gotten very good response from TriMet,” said Julie Wilcke, Ride Connection’s chief operating officer. "In these tough economic times there (are) only so many dollars to go around.”

Thomas Brennan, a consultant with Nelson/Nygaard, presented a draft Local Transit Study to the city council Monday. The study looks at Forest Grove’s demographics and current needs, while considering how similar cities around the country have addressed their transit problems.

Brennan said the city’s most viable option seems to be a “flex” or “deviated fixed” route, meaning it would offer a local fixed route with optional deviations (within, say, three-quarters of a mile) along the way to make curbside pickups or dropoffs on demand.

The new localized route could include Forest Grove High School and its School-Based Health Center, as well as other underserved areas such as the newly developed north and western parts of the city; southeastern destinations such as the Homestead community and Viasystems (the city’s largest employer), as well as the 24th Avenue industrial area.

Brennan will submit his final report and recommendation to the city council by April.

If all three federal grants have been approved by then, Wilcke said, “our hope is that we will be able to start the service before the first of September.”

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