A rural transportation program that provides thousands of rides to metro-area residents each year will continue to operate in western Douglas County and the surrounding counties at least until October.

The Eastern Nebraska Office on Aging’s rural transportation program was set to end next week in much of the Omaha metro area because of changes to the federal Department of Transportation’s classification of urban and rural.

But the Office on Aging reached an agreement with the Nebraska Department of Transportation and the Metropolitan Area Planning Agency to continue to fund the program, said Transportation Department spokeswoman Vicki Kramer.

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Kramer said the three groups are also trying to find a permanent way to continue the program.

The program offers subsidized transportation to or from rural areas and is primarily used by the elderly and people with disabilities. Last fiscal year, it provided more than 19,000 one-way rides to places like doctor’s appointments and senior centers. A one-way ride costs between $3 and $9.

Under the change, a much larger portion of the metro area would have been considered urban and therefore not eligible for the subsidized rides. The affected areas would have included Papillion, Bennington, Council Bluffs and western Omaha. The new agreement means that those areas will keep receiving service for at least the next few months.

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