WASHINGTON, D.C. --- United States Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) announced that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has agreed to give the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority (RTA) $44 million to replace 204 buses and 31 vans that were destroyed by flooding during Hurricane Katrina.

This agreement has been reached after a long effort on behalf of RTA and other parties to work for changes in a FEMA policy mandating that lost items be replaced with comparable equipment, rather than new vehicles. The standing FEMA policy would have resulted in RTA receiving 204 buses that were 12 years old, to match the age of the vehicles they were replacing. Instead, FEMA has agreed to designate the money for as many as 115 new biodiesel buses, which cost about $380,000 each. The funds may also be used to diversify the fleet with the purchase of shuttles, small buses and vans to better serve the city.

"I am so glad that FEMA has agreed to replace the RTA fleet with the type of buses that are needed," Sen. Landrieu said. "The existing FEMA policy was not designed to handle the loss of an entire transit fleet, and putting forward millions of taxpayer dollars to find and purchase 10-year-old buses that would have required combined maintenance and replacement within a couple of years would not have been an effective use of government funds.

"I am very satisfied with the efforts that FEMA and RTA, as well as our political leaders, put forward to make this happen," said RTA Chairman Cesar Burgos. "I believe that this will enable us to supplement our fleet so that we can provide more reliable transportation to our riders. The critical point of this compromise is that we can actually use this money to go out and buy brand new buses, which was not the case before."