Officials from the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians and the Mississippi Department of Transportation broke ground ceremonially Thursday for a new $2.5 million Choctaw Regional Maintenance Facility, which will provide services for tribally-owned transit vehicle, tribal fleet vehicles, and other public transit operated vehicles located in the East Mississippi transit region.

The tribe will construct the 13,960 square foot comprehensive regional maintenance center behind the Choctaw Hospitality Institute, with a September completion date.

The project is being funded through American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grant funds and is administered through the Federal Transportation Administration and MDOT.

Tribal officials said the construction of the new facility is imperative in maintaining efficient operations of Choctaw Transit's 40-vehicle fleet.

"Whether it's providing our tribal members with a ride to work, assisting an elderly resident to a doctor's visit, or taking a young child to the Boys and Girl Club, Choctaw Transit has been a driving force for economic opportunity and improving the quality of life for area residents over the last 30 years," said Tribal Chief Phyliss J. Anderson.

"I am pleased to be breaking ground on this project. The continuation of this mutually beneficial partnership between the Tribe and MDOT is important and I thank Commissioner Dick Hall and the funding/ administrative agencies for their support."

Choctaw Transit currently serves a five-county area of Kemper, Neshoba, Leake, Newton and Winston counties, and is an active member of the East Central Transit Action Group (EZTAG) region which includes Clark, Jasper, Kemper, Lauderdale, Leake, Neshoba, Newton, Scott and Smith counties. Choctaw Transit provides a variety of services to tribal members but also services non-tribal members who live along the service route.

"We look forward to working with the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians and transit providers throughout the area to provide not only more efficient services, but to also provide greater connectivity to more destinations that citizens need to enhance their quality of life," Central District Transportation Commissioner Dick Hall said during the groundbreaking.

"Access to public transit services is an essential part of providing the safe, affordable and efficient transportation system that we strive to maintain."