Madison Metro denied $19.6 million grant to build bus garage, expand service to Sun Prairie

Madison Metro denied $19.6 million grant to build bus garage, expand service to Sun Prairie

Madison Metro has been denied a federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery Grant, “TIGER” grant for short. It’s the third year in a row the city has pursued this grant, to connect Madison to its surrounding, more rural, communities like Sun Prairie.

Metro says it needed the grant to expand service because Madison’s current garage is well beyond full capacity. Metro’s storage facility on East Washington was originally built to house 160 buses. Currently, there are 215 40-foot buses there.

Metro hoped to use the $19.6 million grant for a $35 million bus garage at a site near Nakoosa Trail.

The city of Madison pledged $16 million to the project, and Sun Prairie promised $50,000.

“Employers have an interest in this,” said Aaron Oppenheimer, Sun Prairie city administrator. “Because of costs, the cost of living, they have to travel long distances to get to work. Having a transportation network would be beneficial. Plus, it helps getting customers to businesses to purchase goods and services.”

Oppenheimer is still optimistic about the future of public transportation in his city. He says a bus service would increase the quality of life for people in Sun Prairie.

“People would like to be able to get around our community,” said Oppenheimer. “From school to the workplace to recreational activities to the senior center, our residents have expressed to us that they have challenges getting around our community.”

Next, Madison Metro hopes to find out where it fell short in its application. Metro’s marketing director Mick Rusch says his company will apply for a TIGER grant again next year.

This year, only one project in Wisconsin received a federal grant. That project is in Eau Claire.

Rusch says only 3.6% of federal grants were awarded to public transit projects in 2018. He says that is significantly lower than usual.

As for Sun Prairie, the city could consider a private bus service, but the city administrator called this federal grant their “top priority.”