Valley Metro wins $13.8 million in grants to soften COVID-19 losses

Valley Metro makes regular stops at TSTC from Monday through Friday. (Photo: TSTC)

HARLINGEN — The Federal Transportation Administration announced two grants worth $13.8 million have been awarded to the Lower Rio Grande Valley Development Council to offset losses incurred by Valley Metro due to the coronavirus.

The U.S. Department of Transportation, the umbrella agency over the FTA, reported $10.1 million has been targeted for the McAllen area in Hidalgo County and $3.7 million for use in Cameron County.

“ This historic $25 billion in grant funding will ensure our nation’s public transportation systems can continue to provide services to the millions of Americans who continue to depend on them,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao in a statement.

The funding comes as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economy Security Act (CARES Act) signed into law by President Donald Trump on March 27.

The LRGVDC oversees public transportation in Cameron, Willacy, Hidalgo, Starr and Zapata counties through its transit department, Valley Metro.

LRGVDC will receive the grant awards to support transit operations as well as administrative and maintenance costs during the COVID-19 public health emergency.

In addition to the CARES Act funding, FTA issued safety advisory urging transit agencies to develop and implement policies and procedures regarding face coverings and Personal Protective Equipment, cleaning and disinfection of frequently touched surfaces, physical separation, and hand hygiene consistent with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Occupational Safety and Health Administration guidance.

CARES Act funding can be used to cover 100 percent of these costs, the FTA said in a statement.

Valley Metro recently mandated face coverings for all riders of the bus service. If a passenger lacks a facemask when boarding, one will be provided at no charge.