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VRT Funding Still Facing Hurdles

Mayor, Town Council look for creative funding options to continue service.

Leesburg's Mayor Kristen Umstattd announced Tuesday that the Virginia Regional Transit (VRT) funding options continue to become more limited.

Virginia Regional Transit will stop operating in Leesburg after Sept. 30 if replacement funds cannot be found, according to a memo sent from County Administrator Tim Hemstreet to the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors.

According to Mayor Umstattd, the budget amendments that Leesburg requested to keep the bus routes running through June of 2014 are predicted to fail in the General Assembly.

"I'm disappointed that, at this point, it does not look like there will be federal funds or state funds through the General Assembly to assist in keeping the local bus system running in Leesburg and Loudoun County," Umstattd said. "Whether we can keep all current bus routes running after September 30th is doubtful."

The mayor explained that for Leesburg to fully fund just two routes – the Safety Ride and the Trolley routes – would cost more than $600,000. The state transit folks are suggesting that VRT double its fares to make up the shortfall, but even that will not cover the full costs of operating all current routes, she said.

"It is disappointing to say the least," said Leesburg Town Council member Marty Martinez. "We knew it was not going to be easy, but we are hoping to come up with some creative ways to get the funding."

Umstattd said the town would contintue to push to restore the funding.

"The County has applied for funds and the Town has applied for a state grant of transit funds as a 'small urban center,' and we are continuing to reach out to our federal legislators," she said. "I want to thank our state legislators, including Mark Herring, Joe May, Dick Black, Randy Minchew and Barbara Favola for their efforts and local citizens like Monte Johnson, who has gone out of his way to lobby for us in Washington."

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