Blandin Foundation awards grant for residential transportation study
GRAND RAPIDS, Minn. (August 20, 2009) – As part of Blandin Foundation’s continued commitment to strengthen communities in rural Minnesota, especially the Grand Rapids area, the Foundation has awarded a $50,000 grant to study the types and systems of transportation Itasca County residents use to get to work, school and other local destinations, and to make recommendations for improving these.
Itasca Transportation Solutions, a local committee, selected the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs to conduct the study. Itasca Transportation Solutions includes representatives from Itasca County service providers, schools and private-sector employers.
The study project will build on results of a 2008 community assessment conducted by the United Way of 1000 Lakes. What Matters – Assessment of Health and Human Service Needs in Itasca County found that “accessibility to services, education, health care and employment is key to meeting the needs of our most vulnerable populations.”
“This finding corroborated what we’ve been hearing for several years – that transportation is an issue for significant segments of Itasca County residents, including those in poverty, the elderly and students,” said Wade Fauth, Blandin Foundation director of grants. “The work of Itasca Transportation Solutions and Humphrey Institute will provide data organizations throughout the county can use to accurately assess the scope of need.”
The Humphrey study team – which includes professionals with specialties in technology and transportation systems, mapping, community-based transit and project development – will conduct local focus groups in late August and listening sessions in late September at sites throughout Itasca County.
Action items based on this data and evaluations of rural transportation solutions in other rural areas will be a key component of the final report, due the first of December 2009.
“The most important thing is that when the study is complete, we will have some specific, concrete tasks to begin bridging the transportation gap and to help all residents start thinking differently about transit,” said Jody Hane, executive director of United Way of 1000 Lakes and Itasca Transportation Solutions member.
“Itasca County has a low population density, so transportation solutions that fit other regions may not fit here,” said Frank Douma, Assistant Program Director of the State and Local Policy Program at the Humphrey Institute, and lead researcher for the project. “We’re excited to be working in the area, and to learn more about how the county might coordinate its existing transportation resources to increase mobility and access for everyone.”
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Blandin Foundation, Minnesota’s largest rural-based private foundation is located in Grand Rapids, Minn. Its mission is to strengthen rural Minnesota communities, especially the Grand Rapids area, through grants, leadership development programs and public policy initiatives. www.blandinfoundation.org.
For additional information, contact:
Allison Rajala Ahcan, communications director
218-326-0523 or cell 218-259-2893
Jody Hane, Executive Director
United Way of 1000 Lakes