|12/28/2020 11:55:00 AM|
Looking like new Heartland Express operator taking over
The Minnesota Department of Transportation is making progress on re-assigning an operator for the Heartland Express. The public transit program that serves residents of Isanti and Chisago Counties was the subject of a “special solicitation” that went out last fall, with MnDOT seeking proposals from new operators. The solicitation was to have been awarded by October, but no news had been forthcoming.
In checking with county officials, the apparent winner of the solicitation is Arrowhead Transit program.
The stated potential start date for a new operator was advertised as January 1, 2021, however, it’s expected to be pushed back to spring 2021.
Heartland Express existing drivers and dispatchers will be guaranteed an interview, when the new operator is ready to forge ahead. Chase Burnham, Chisago County Administrator told the Press the apparent winner of the solicitation process Arrowhead, already has maintenance personnel and it’s unlikely more staff of this skill will be added after the takeover.
There is still a conversation between Arrowhead and the state on the details, he added.
The changeover includes Arrowhead accepting the current 17 Heartland buses and the main change will be that patrons will see Arrowhead logos and information replacing the Heartland Express graphics.
Isanti County has responsibility for managing staff, Burnham explained, and the actual changeover timeframe is between Isanti and the state. The structure of a local Transportation Advisory Committee is also being reviewed. The Heartland Express program was overseen by county commissioners and staff from both Isanti and Chisago and this could be revised but Chisago County Board will want to continue to have a say, Burnham concluded.
Chisago County had budgeted $116,000 approximately as its share of the program for 2021. This could be reduced or even eliminated depending on how the changeover and transition are accomplished. Again, details are yet to be finalized with MnDOT.
Tony Potter, of Arrowhead marketing office, declined to comment on anything having to do with Heartland when we reached him.
Arrowhead has systems in Aitkin, Carlton, Cook, Itasca, Koochiching, Lake, St. Louis and Pine county.