RUSSELL – A total of $2-million in provincial funding will allow the United Counties of Prescott and Russell (UCPR) to establish an inter-municipal transit system as well as a transportation service for vulnerable individuals.

The first subsidy of $1.5-million will allow for the creation of a mini-bus route offering about 20 seats and reserved wheelchair spaces, operating from Monday to Friday at fixed hours. Calls for tenders will soon be released for the hiring of a consultant who will work closely with the UCPR’s Economic Development and Tourism Office in order to facilitate the establishment of such a service.

The public will also be asked to voice its opinion on schedules and routes that would be ideal for the region. Public consultations could be held towards the end of June.

“This project is an essential development tool and it is very likely that this transportation service will facilitate employment. Public transit has always been an obstacle for people looking to settle in a rural area – and now, they will have the option of a service here,” explained Carole Lavigne, economic development and tourism director for the UCPR.

Spread over five years, these funds are provided through the Ontario Ministry of Transportation’s Community Transportation Grant Program. It should be noted that the UCPR’s pilot project was chosen according to an evaluation based on merit and relevance to the community. The regional government is therefore part of 40 municipalities that were selected for pilot transportation projects.

“One of my priorities for 2018 was to find an effective solution to facilitate the movement of residents between our region’s eight municipalities,” added Pierre Leroux, chair of the UCPR Economic and Tourism Development Committee and mayor of the Township of Russell. “I am extremely pleased with this announcement and the benefits that it will have for our region.”

A second $500,000 grant for a community transportation project will target more vulnerable individuals living in rural areas such as the elderly, people with disabilities, women in abusive situations and single mothers. The use of vehicles will be coordinated by the Champlain Community Transportation Collaborative together with several community partners such as Maison Interlude, Groupe Action, Prescott-Russell Community Services, the Hawkesbury General Hospital, Novas Centre, CALACS francophone de Prescott-Russell, the Prescott-Russell Coalition to End Violence Against Women, Prescott-Russell Victim Services, Le Phénix, Valoris, and the UCPR’s Social Services Department.

“This announcement is important for the region because it will finally break the isolation of the most vulnerable people in our society,” said Muriel Lalonde, general manager of Maison Interlude.