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Emergency funds save WorkLink for 2 weeks

| Thursday, July 4, 2013, 12:51 a.m.

There will be no WorkLink vans in 13 area communities today because of the holiday, but for at least the next two weeks low-income clients will be able to get rides to work.

Heritage Community Initiatives spokeswoman Amy Schnarrenberger said on Wednesday that PennDOT has committed to an extension of Heritage's WorkLink service, which since 2001 has been used 13,000 times a month by 3,000 Mon Valley families.

“They can extend their service until July 20,” PennDOT spokeswoman Erin Waters-Trasatt said.

Heritage found $20,000 in unused federal funds, allowing WorkLink to continue through Saturday.

PennDOT found more money, but even more needs.

“We have roughly $16.4 million in uncommitted transit funds,” Waters-Trasatt said. “We have about $34 million in needs between the $30 million Port Authority commitment and nearly $4 million from seven transit services.”

Those include WorkLink and RideACTA, provided by the nonprofit Airport Corridor Transportation Association in the western suburbs.

RideACTA had to suspend trips on Monday for lack of funds but will resume on Friday. RideACTA and WorkLink tie users with areas where they can transfer to Port Authority buses.

Port Authority received a $30 million commitment earlier this year to prevent service cuts and layoffs in exchange for concessions by the transit agency's employees.

“We have some tough decisions to make,” Waters-Trasatt said. “This two-week period gives us some more time.”

Schnarrenberger said her agency is hoping for a more sustainable solution.

“We talked initially about two weeks but it is our hope that the (state funding) can be continued beyond that,” she said.

Heritage Community Initiatives is a nonprofit that provides education, transportation and community outreach services.

WorkLink and RideACTA previously were funded by the federal Job Access Reverse Commute program.

State Senate Bill 1 included funds to replace JARC, but failed to clear the state House before the General Assembly went on summer recess.

“It is hoped that a legislative solution will be resolved when the House reconvenes in the fall,” Schnarrenberger said.

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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