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Most Metro Transit bus drivers will soon have the option to use a barrier to protect them from a growing number of assaults by passengers.

The Metropolitan Council approved a $1.23 million contract Wednesday to install barriers in about 600 40-foot buses, roughly two-thirds of Metro Transit’s fleet.

The measure comes after several high-profile assaults of drivers over the past year, many of which were widely disseminated on social media.

“We’re happy because this is a massive step forward for our members,” said Ryan Timlin, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1005, which represents Metro Transit bus drivers.

Timlin said the union and the council worked together to choose the vendor, Philadelphia-based Bentech Inc. The Bentech barrier “emerged as a favorite because it gives operators the choice of using the protection and felt less confining than other models,” the council said in a memo.

At a committee meeting Monday, Council Member Edward Reynoso asked which routes will be outfitted with the barriers.

Joe Reichstadt, assistant director of bus maintenance for Metro Transit, said there’s no definite plan regarding which buses will be fitted with the plastic barriers. But about eight barriers will be installed in-house per week, so the entire project will take about a year and a half to complete.

Timlin said some of the higher-frequency bus routes that have experienced the most assaults, including Routes 21, 5, and 19, will likely get priority.

In 2017, Metro Transit said there was one felony-level assault reported, 60 gross misdemeanor (including spitting), 27 misdemeanors and 96 incidents of disorderly conduct or threats levied against drivers.

Through October of this year, there were three felony-level offenses, 49 gross misdemeanors, 26 misdemeanors and 111 reports of disorderly conduct or threats against drivers.

Janet Moore • 612-673-7752 Twitter: @MooreStrib