Officials with the City of Thunder Bay say a $6 million funding announcement from the federal government is a welcome investment.
The money was announced Monday morning at the city's transit headquarters by Thunder Bay-Superior North MP Patty Hajdu. It is slated to help the city replace older buses, upgrade bus stops to be more accessible, add amenities to the city hall transit terminal, as well as help pay for phase one of a study for a new central transit terminal and route network.
Hajdu said the money will help the fleet be more efficient and environmentally friendly.
"We know that public transportation is actually a way to reduce our carbon output, but also can we make those buses as efficient as possible in the meantime," she said.
Several other northern communities like Greenstone, Sault Ste. Marie and Timmins also received money for similar upgrades.
"It's important because it really is part of our core mandate to Canadians to both invest in aging infrastructure but also to invest in infrastructure in a way that helps Canadians maximize their productivity," Hajdu said.
Some of the money for Thunder Bay will also go to non-transit related projects, such as the implementation of two new crossovers — the city still has to finalize the locations — as well as some new sidewalks, bike lanes and trails.
The money is expected to roll out to Thunder Bay by April, according to a government press release issued in conjunction with the announcement.
City officials said six new conventional and six specialized transit buses are slated to be purchased by the end of 2017, and six more of each type in early 2018. Over $3.7 million from the federal government is earmarked for the new buses.
"It's huge, because it literally allows the city to fund these projects that would not be able to go ahead in the absence of it," said Brad Loroff, Thunder Bay's transit manager.
"It's very difficult for municipalities to come up with this level of funding for one stream like transit."
The city will still have to pay, as the money from Ottawa is expected to be about half the total cost, with the rest slated to be included in the 2017 city budget.
"[This] is really good for the City of Thunder Bay," Loroff added.
'Largest infusion of federal dollars ... since the waterfront project'
The amount of money the city is slated to receive didn't go unnoticed by Thunder Bay's mayor.
"This is the largest infusion of federal dollars for infrastructure since the waterfront project," said Keith Hobbs after Monday's announcement.
"So it's kind of long overdue, and very welcome though."
Hobbs said investments like this are crucial in helping municipalities with infrastructure gaps — cities having less money available for essential repairs and replacements than the projected cost — and help make the city safer.
"It's $6 million less than we have to come up with," he said.