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King County Metro gets state funds for special-needs services

King County Metro Transit will receive $4.2 million in state funds to improve transit services for special-needs riders.

The funds are earmarked for "paratransit" services, such as smaller buses with wheelchair lifts that provide door-to-door transportation for medical appointments or shopping for riders who are disabled, elderly or medically fragile.

Some of the funds are expected to expand services offered by nonprofit agencies and community centers, including the Mount Si Senior Center in North Bend, special -needs services in the Auburn area and the Beacon Hill Senior Center in Seattle.

The state Department of Transportation is allocating $38.5 million in public transportation grants to improve special-needs services statewide for 2003-05.

Those state funds come from revenues from trucking fees and vehicle sales taxes. No transit funds come from state gas taxes, which are earmarked for roads and highway construction.

Nonprofit agencies in King County also received additional state grants to improve services. Senior Services of King County received about $318,500 for its Senior Shuttle program. The Mount Si Senior Center received about $232,500 to better serve special-needs residents in North Bend, the Upper Snoqualmie Valley and other areas.

Sandy Stutey, a supervisor for accessible services for Metro, said some of the grant funds will help expand services offered by local agencies, such as the purchase of two 13-passenger vans with wheelchair lifts for the Beacon Hill Senior Center.

The $4.2 million is King County's share of the available funds, based on population, existing services, the estimated numbers of special needs residents, and other factors.

Metro officials just learned last week how much King County will receive. Agency staff will review funding requests from cities and nonprofit social service groups before making final decisions, Stutey said.

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