CONWAY, S.C. (WBTW) — Coast RTA’s yearly share of federal funds is slated to increase by close to one third.

Coast RTA will get roughly $2.5 million in federal and state funds, according to Coast RTA general manager and CEO Brian Piascik.

Coast RTA’s annual operating budget is $6.5 million. Piascik said he welcomes the federal government increasing its input thanks to the federal Infrastructure and Jobs Act.

“This is a pretty small piece of the bigger pie,” Piascik said.

That bigger pie includes improvements to Coast RTA buildings, starting with the transit authority’s maintenance facility in Conway.

“That little bump in formula money helps now, but what we’re really looking to try to get additional funding here to help us do more for the community,” Piascik said.

Coast RTA is eyeing a new, permanent maintenance facility with an estimated cost of $29 million. The current location in Conway was an old Ford dealership first built in the late 1490s. Robert Edgar, a Coast RTA foreman, said it is too small to lift a bus to do major repair work underneath.

“It becomes very difficult,” Edgar said. “Especially when you have to work around your coworkers. You need a bus to get into a space and you can’t get into that space because somebody else is using it.”

Edgar added that major repairs have to be done outside on the facility’s lone lift.

“It’s extremely limiting because, again, you can only do essentially one major repair at a time,” Edgar said.

The money from the infrastructure bill aims to give transit agencies enough to buy new buses to replace aging fleets, cut down on repair backlogs and also encourage changes that reduce carbon emissions. Piascik said the money will ultimately help with operating costs while the agency looks toward expansion.

“The timing is good for us because of some things that we need to do before we’re really able to grow,” Piascik said.

Piascik also said the increase in federal funding helps offset some of Coast RTA’s challenges with not being disbursed its share of the Horry and Georgetown county road fees. Horry County charges $50 per registered vehicle each year, with $6.50 of that fee going to Coast RTA.

Since July, that fee has been charged but the money is sitting in escrow after a South Carolina Supreme Court ruling said similar fees imposed by Greenville County were unconstitutional.

Tuesday night, Horry County Council approved first reading of an ordinance that would deem the county’s fee legal, making it permanent and giving the county the green light to begin disbursements.

Piascik said he’s thankful county council kept Coast RTA’s portion of the fee intact.

“I’m extremely appreciative, and I think that the county has supported us ever since I’ve been here,” Piascik said. “I support them in trying to make this change for sure because it certainly will benefit our system and benefit those who use the system.”

Coast RTA reports a ridership record for the month of March with more than 50,000 rides, following a record February as well.