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The No. 10 CARTA bus stops to board passengers at the 600 Market St. stop in front of the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Courts Building.

NASHVILLE -- Tennessee urban and rural transit agencies, including the Chattanooga Area Regional Transportation Authority, will share $16.2 million in federal grants to buy new or specialized buses to better serve riders, U.S. Department of Transportation officials announced Friday.

The funding, announced by U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, is part of $423 million in transit infrastructure grants being awarded nationwide through the Federal Transit Administration.

"Public bus systems throughout the country provide millions of Americans access to jobs, health care, grocery stores, and other vital services," Chao said in a statement.

The federal funding supports efforts to replace, rehabilitate and purchase buses and related equipment, as well as projects to purchase, rehabilitate and construct bus-related facilities.

Tennessee's $16.2 million share of federal Grants for Buses and Bus Facilities Program funding will be funneled through the Tennessee Department of Transportation's Division of Multimodal Transportation Resources.

That in turn is expected to flow to rural and urban transit agencies for purchasing new and specialized vehicles to replace aging ones on the roads.

TDOT's funding application includes two urban transit systems, CARTA and Jackson Transit Authority, according to a summary provided Friday to the Times Free Press. Eight rural public transit agencies are also included.

Funding, along with resources from the state and various regions, will be used to replace 25 fixed route buses and 279 cutaway buses that provide paratransit services for persons with disabilities.

"These services provide transportation to jobs, schools, and medical appointments, contribute to economic development and job creation and allow seniors, those with disabilities, and those without other means of transportation to remain independent," the summary states.

No specific award distributions among the 10 agencies were cited. The eight rural public transit agencies are: Southeast Tennessee Human Resource Agency, Southwest Human Resource Agency, Northwest Tennessee Human Resource Agency, Mid-Cumberland Human Resource Agency, East Tennessee Human Resource Agency, Upper Cumberland Human Resource Agency, First Tennessee Human Resource Agency, and South Central Tennessee Development District.

Collectively the 10 agencies serve 91 of Tennessee's 95 counties.

Federal officials say national demand for FTA's Grants for Buses and Bus Facilities Program has "far exceeded" available funding. The Federal Transit Administration received applications for 318 eligible projects totaling some $1.9 billion in funding requests from a total of 270 applicants in 43 states and territories.

Project proposals were evaluated based on specific criteria.

Contact Andy Sher at asher@timesfreepress.com or 615-255-0550. Follow on Twitter @AndySher1.

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