WASHINGTON D.C. — U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg announced Wednesday that $1.6 billion in American Rescue Plan funds will be awarded to NJ Transit as part of a series of similar tranches of money granted to transit agencies, to help them maintain service and retain staff as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.

The release from the Department of Transportation said that in 2019, prior to COVID, the 267 million trips provided by NJT represented 1 out of every 37 public transit rides in the country, covering 164 million miles.

Notably, the release said the $1.6 billion award will help to not only maintain, but improve, NJT's level of service to New Jersey residents and visitors.

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That service was often called into question before the pandemic, especially on NJ Transit trains, but the roster of rail engineers has since ballooned to nearly 400, resolving a long-standing shortage.

Federal officials said NJT employs around 11,000 people, and Forbes has listed the agency as one of America's top employers.

"Public transportation has helped people reach their jobs at hospitals, grocery stores, ports, and more throughout this pandemic," Buttigieg was quoted as saying in the release. "This funding from President Biden's American Rescue Plan will help keep transit service running, protect transit employees from layoffs, and ensure people can get where they need to go."

No further details on what specific improvements might be made to NJ Transit were made public Wednesday.

Patrick Lavery is New Jersey 101.5's afternoon news anchor. Follow him on Twitter @plavery1015 or email patrick.lavery@townsquaremedia.com.

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