Low civic participation marked the start of a public transportation funding debate that involves five local cities and more than $6 million of federal monies for local roads.

Killeen Temple Metropolitan Planning Organization held the first meeting of its 15-day public comment period on the Category 7 funding Monday at Killeen City Hall with just three residents in attendance.

The 2013-2014 fiscal year will be the first that KTMPO will receive Category 7 funding, after the metropolitan area surpassed the 200,000 population threshold in 2011-2012, said Mark Collier, KTMPO regional planner.

“This is the federal government’s way of saying, ‘You’re growing, so here is a little extra money to help start a project,’” Collier said.

Projects benefiting the cities of Killeen, Temple, Copperas Cove, Belton and Harker Heights will compete for shares of the estimated $6 million allotted to the region over two years, Collier said.

In September, KTMPO’s 14-member board — composed of public officials from all five cities and three counties — will have to decide which of the projects will receive the federal funds.

“We are looking for the projects that will create the most benefit for the amount of funds that we have received,” said Scott Cosper, KTMPO board chairman. “We are looking for mobility, safety and connectivity.”

In order to qualify for the funds, the local entities must contribute at least 20 percent of the total cost to the project.

Killeen requested $2 million to supplement the $8 million Trimmier Widening Project already under design.

The project would create an additional lane on Trimmier Road between Jasper and Elms roads.

Harker Heights requested $3.5 million for a project to widen Farm-to-Market 2410 from South Ann Boulevard to Commercial Drive.

The city of Belton asked for around $3 million to extend West Ninth Avenue from Loop 121 to University Drive.

The total $6 million project will increase accessibility to the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor campus in Belton.

Temple proposed a lane expansion of State Highway 317 from Farm-to-Market 2305 to Oak Hills Drive, asking for $1.5 million of Category 7 funds.

The only nonmunicipal entity, Hill Country Transit District — which operates the regional HOP buses — requested $642,642 to purchase two replacement buses.

Cosper said the board is still undecided whether it will use all of the funds on one project or whether it will split the money among several projects.

The money comes at an important time for the growing region, said Annette Shepherd, KTMPO director.

“This is huge right now, because for the next 10 years no new money has been funded (by the Texas Department of Transportation) for added capacity,” Shepherd said. “All the TxDOT budget is all slotted for maintenance.”

Those budget projections do not include projects already approved for funding or currently under construction, she said.

Residents may comment on the Category 7 funding through the KTMPO website, www.ktmpo.org, or by calling (254) 770-2200.

Contact ​Brandon Janes at bjanes@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7552

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