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Port Authority of Allegheny County would slash routes under budget proposal

Theresa Clift
| Monday, Sept. 11, 2017, 3:18 p.m.
A Port Authority bus comes down West Eighth Avenue in West Homestead to turn onto Forest Avenue.
Cindy Shegan Keeley | Trib Total Media
A Port Authority bus comes down West Eighth Avenue in West Homestead to turn onto Forest Avenue.

The Port Authority of Allegheny County would be forced to cut half its bus routes, along with evening and weekend service, under a new state budget proposal.

The proposal, aimed to help balance the state budget, would cut $80 million of the authority's operating funds — about 35 percent of its annual state funding and 19 percent of the authority's entire projected revenue for 2018, according to an authority news release.

"This proposal is harmful to our residents and would be devastating to our strong and growing economy," said Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald in the release.

The cuts would be part of the $357 million that would be eliminated from transit agencies statewide — a plan Gov. Tom Wolf opposes.

"Shifting money from public and multimodal transportation sets back progress in municipalities small and large across Pennsylvania," J.J. Abbott, a Wolf spokesman, said in a statement. "These funds support essential commonwealth programs. If the money is not there, every Pennsylvanian will be negatively impacted."

The proposal would also take funds from 911 centers and volunteer firefighters, according to Abbott.

Port Authority Interim CEO David Donahoe on Friday sent a letter to state legislators in Allegheny County outlining the devastating effects it would have on the authority.

"We are contacting you on behalf of our 62 million annual riders to express alarm with a proposal that would not only devastate the Port Authority system but undermine the stable, predictable funding pact made between the state and local transit agencies just four years ago with the passage of Act 89," Donahoe wrote.

In 2011-12, the authority faced a $35 million deficit, which prompting it to eliminate 29 routes, lay off 200 employees, close one bus operating division and reduce the frequency of remaining service, Donahoe wrote.

That deficit was less than half of the $80 million loss the authority now faces.

If the state budget proposal passed, the authority — in addition to cutting half its routes and weekend/evening service — would likely close two of five operating divisions, decrease paratransit support for disabled and elderly and impose a substantial fare increase, Donahoe wrote.

Plans underway to expand service, improve on-time performance and advance a series of capital projects would all be delayed or canceled.

State legislators are set to consider the proposal later this week as part of the budget vote.

Theresa Clift is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 412-380-5669, tclift@tribweb.com or via Twitter @tclift.

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