I’ve talked a lot about the benefits of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. And with $40.6 billion already obligated for more than 15,000 highway, road, transit, bridge and airport construction projects in 53 U.S. states and territories, the Department of Transportation is working hard to help deliver those benefits.
The Recovery Act is about second chances--second chances for aging infrastructure, second chances for cities, towns, counties and states with long-deferred projects, second chances for transportation companies, and second chances for workers looking to keep their jobs or get rehired.
That's true for several of the buses in the Town of Breckenridge, Colorado, one of which had sat idle for more than two years before being brought back to life. It's also true for the employees of American Transit Works in Lamar, Colorado, who helped get that bus and three others back in service.
American Transit Works already knew about second chances--it was created in 2006 by former Neoplan USA Corporation employees after that business--one of Lamar's biggest employers--closed its doors after 25 years. With its skilled workforce, ATW focused on structural rehabilitations, collision repairs, and major overhauls of transit buses.
But the Lamar area economy has been slow since Neoplan left in 2005. Nothing was happening; projects throughout the area were shelved due to economic decline. Eventually, ATW also was forced to lay off its seven employees and was about to shut down permanently.
Then things started to turn around. Thanks to a Recovery Act grant from the Federal Transit Administration, Breckenridge’s Free Ride System restarted a long-tabled project to refurbish four transit buses. ATW secured the contract and was able to get back to work immediately, rehiring its seven workers.
Today, the company is still going strong. Through its quality work on the Breckenridge project, ATW has secured more contracts from transit agencies across the country. It also hired three new employees to keep up with the new work orders.
Marybeth Lewis-Baker, General Manager of Breckenridge Transit, said,” Lamar is in an economically distressed county and job development is very hard to come by. So good things are starting to happen, and all because the ARRA funds worked as they were intended. This is a real success story.”
I couldn’t agree more. The Town of Breckenridge has four like-new buses it has needed for years but couldn't afford. A small business on the brink of extinction is now expanding. Workers in an economically distressed area are being rehired.
All made possible by a single Recovery Act grant.