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WorkLink transit service extends service by week via conservative spending

| Wednesday, June 26, 2013, 2:41 a.m.

As debate continues over rival transportation plans in Harrisburg, an area fixed-route transit feeder service has found funds to keep going one week into the new fiscal year.

Officials of Braddock's Heritage Community Initiatives said on Tuesday that being “conservative with our spending” kept $20,000 available so WorkLink can run through July 6.

“It is actually a continuation of the current money that we have,” Heritage transportation manager Sarah Morgan said. “It is just the last little bit of it.”

Heritage officials said WorkLink was designed to provide efficient, cost effective, and non-duplicative services to residents in such communities as McKeesport, Port Vue, Glassport, Clairton, North Versailles Township, East Pittsburgh and Turtle Creek.

WorkLink has 3,000 riders taking 13,000 trips a month, but Heritage announced earlier this month that it could no longer fund WorkLink after Sunday because of a reallocation of federal funding from the Job Access Reverse Commute program.

JARC money also serviced a similar program in the Pittsburgh International Airport corridor.

“(Heritage) had some funds left over from the current year,” Airport Corridor Transportation Association executive director Lynn Manion said. “We don't have any funds left over. We are running out of funds at the end of the month, so we cannot operate beyond (Sunday).”

That could affect some riders even with WorkLink available. As of November, RideACTA said, neighborhoods of origin for its service include Homestead, McKeesport and North Versailles.

Meanwhile, state Senate Bill 1, which includes $1 million for annual operation of WorkLink and similar funding for RideACTA, is being held up by a House amendment rejected even by majority Republicans.

“They can't get 13 (of 15 Republicans on the House Transportation Committee) to vote yes,” state Rep. Bill Kortz, D-Dravosburg, said about an amendment proposed by committee chairman Dick Hess, R-Bedford.

Kortz is one of 10 Democrats on the panel. He described the Hess amendment as a “poison pill,” with such provisions as the elimination of prevailing wage requirements and a mandate for Port Authority and Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority to privatize 10 percent of their respective operations.

SB 1, the Hess amendment and Gov. Tom Corbett's Transportation Funding Advisory Commission plans all call for lifting the cap on the Oil Company Franchise Tax.

SB 1 would do it in three years, the governor's plan in five and the Hess plan in 10 years.

Hess canceled a committee meeting scheduled for Tuesday morning.

“As of now, there are conversations taking place but no movement for a committee vote yet,” Hess spokesman Raymond Smith said.

Kortz also insisted that House GOP leaders still want to link transportation financing to the privatization of state liquor stores.

Patrick Cloonan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161 ext. 1967, or pcloonan@tribweb.com.

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