Ben Franklin Transit Board Will Hold Two Meetings: Will They Refuse $75 Million From The State?

Chicano Disabled Man in wheelchair
Jaime Torres Chicano Disabled Activist



Residents of Benton and Franklin counties may soon  have fewer transportation options..

The Ben Franklin Transit Board, or B-F-T, willl discuss  the impacts of rolling back the taxes it collects  and putting that issue before voters in a meeting on July 13th. 

The commissioners are considering this cut to fund the new behavioral health tax, which provides mental health and detox services.

The cuts will mean a change to service hours and layoffs, according to transit employees. 

Jaime Torres is a Chicano disabled activist and a regular transit user. Right now, if Torres needs to use BFT Dial-A-Ride, he must schedule a pick-up 24 hours in advance. He’s worried about what cuts will mean to this service. 

“This is straight-up an attack on all sorts of communities, the poor the disabled…all sorts of marginalized groups. That they don’t take into consideration. And me, as a member of the disabled community, it opened up my eyes on how unjust the world is to people with disabilities.”

Torres is one of hundreds of people who’ve asked the board not to cut the tax

“you’ve got all sorts of people using and depending on the transit system and taking away funding is just going to make it worse and harder on people that don’t have the luxury of owning a vehicle or driving.”

The Commissioners own attorney, Jeremy Bishop, advised they would lose money. He says this move would cut off access to a  $75-million- dollar Move Ahead Washington grant. It requires the BFT to maintain its current taxing authority. That state money would help modernize the fleet over the next sixteen years.

Depending on the outcome of the meetings, residents in Benton and Franklin county could vote on the issue later this year. 

The Ben Franklin Transit Board Workshop is Wednesday at 6 pm and Regular Board meeting is Thursday also at 6 pm.