The federal government is willing to fund new transit projects, according to U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, but keeping buses and trains running is up to the locals.
LaHood made his remarks in Phoenix on Thursday - the day after regional officials approved spending $15 million in stimulus money on a high-capacity bus line connecting Chandler and Mesa.
But the Arizona Avenue Bus Rapid Transit came close to never receiving funding, because transit agency Valley Metro warned it might not have the money to operate the line.
Due to the economic slowdown, there is less tax revenue than expected for operations.
Nevertheless, voting to approve the disbursement of stimulus dollars were Valley Metro's board of directors and the Regional Council of the Maricopa Association of Governments.
That money came from a pool of more than $40 billion handed out to states and municipalities by LaHood's office.
"We can take some role over another period after this to be helpful with operating funds," LaHood said, "but some of this has to be sustained by communities."
During Thursday morning's event, LaHood appeared with Phoenix officials to announce that Arizona's airports are receiving more than $28 million in stimulus funding.
The $10.5 million given to Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport will pay for improvements to a major taxiway on the airport's north side. The project includes replacing asphalt with more durable concrete, as well as installing new pavement marking, lighting and signs.
Phoenix Sky Harbor is one of the nation's busiest airports, serving about 40 million passengers last year.
The press conference was held at the 44th Street/Washington light-rail station, where people can transfer from trains to free buses that will take them to the airport's terminals. At that site, Phoenix has begun construction on the PHX Sky Train people mover to replace the buses.
During the event, which included a ceremonial groundbreaking, Mayor Phil Gordon took the opportunity to publicly lobby LaHood for another $200 million. That money, Gordon said, would get the PHX Sky Train built seven years ahead of schedule.
Without federal stimulus funding, the first phase - 44th/Washington to East Economy parking and Terminal 4 - would open in 2014; service to the rest of the airport, including the Rental Car Center, would begin in 2020.
Later Thursday, LaHood was scheduled to give the keynote address at the 18th annual Sky Harbor International Aviation Symposium.
This morning, LaHood is slated to make an announcement about stimulus funding for transit. That event will be held at Metro light rail's Operations and Maintenance Center.