Home BRITE regional transportation program receives $8.5 million in federal transit funding

BRITE regional transportation program receives $8.5 million in federal transit funding

Sen. Mark Warner presents BRITE with a check for $8.5 million in Fishersville on Friday, July 15.

FISHERSVILLE — Public transportation in Staunton, August County and Waynesboro began with 12 mule-drawn carts in 1890 provided by the city of Staunton.

A public bus system in the 1970s doubled as the public school bus system.

In 1992, a bus service was created to transport patients to Augusta Health from the three jurisdictions. In 2010, Staunton, Augusta County and Waynesboro were designated an urbanized area, which permitted for more transit funds.

Seven years ago, the BRITE bus fleet began to improve ridership in the Valley, and maintained routes during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, a need was recognized to transport residents over Afton Mountain to medical services and jobs in Charlottesville.

“And, that is how Afton Express was born,” Bonnie Riedesel, the Central Shenandoah Planning District Commission’s executive director, said Friday morning at BRITE’s bus terminal in Fishersville. In September 2021, Afton Express began with three buses transporting riders five days a week via four morning routes and four afternoon routes. “With gas prices the way they are, this is the best deal in town.”

A year ago, a group of United States senators realized they had the same goal in common: infrastructure. Discussion about infrastructure in the U.S. began 40 years ago, but not much has been accomplished.

“One of the areas that we wanted to make an investment in was transit,” Sen. Mark Warner said. And not just transit in big cities. “I think the BRITE system that services your communities, is probably, if not the most successful, is one of the most successful transit systems in a rural community all across the Commonwealth.”

Warner presented BRITE with a check for $8.5 million Friday morning to continue to provide successful transit opportunities for Valley residents.

“This kind of investment on the infrastructure plan is, I think, it’s really, really important,” Warner said. He said he knows the community will put the funds to good use.

The federal government is providing $66 billion in transit funding across the United States, including $2 million for the Shenandoah Valley Regional Airport and renovations for Interstate 81, but no funding is allocated thus far for additional Amtrak routes to and from the city of Staunton.

“One of the alternative ways rather than being able to simply have the train come out of Staunton is to go ahead and have this kind of service that can get you to the Charlottesville station,” Warner said.

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.