Port Authority deal saves Trafford bus routes
Public bus routes will serve Trafford for at least another year because of an increase in state funding and a new union contract for the Port Authority of Allegheny County.
Though some budget details are in flux, authority officials rescinded a plan that would have eliminated the 69 Trafford route and the P69 Trafford Flyer express route as part of a 35-percent service reduction that was scheduled to take effect on Sept. 2 to close a projected $64 million deficit.
Authority spokeswoman Heather Pharo said the proposed service cuts were postponed through the end of next August.
“This will allow for time for the state and county to come up with a sustainable and long-term funding solution,” Pharo said.
Authority officials expect to save $60 million over four years because of a new contract with Amalgamated Transit Union Local 85, the agency's largest union.
The state Department of Transportation also pledged at least a $30-million increase in annual funding. Secretary Barry Schoch said the agency will provide $10 million this year from an account reserved for transit improvement projects.
Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said the county will kick in $4.5 million annually above the $27.7 million that it provides for operating expenses. As much as $3 million could come from the Allegheny Regional Asset District, which generates money for regional projects through a 1 percent county sales tax.
The RAD board must approve the arrangement, Fitzgerald said.
The moves to shore up the authority's finances relieved Trafford officials, who were worried about the potential loss of service that the authority has provided since 1964.
“(Residents) need it, and I appreciate (Port Authority) doing it,” Councilwoman Rita Windsor said. “There's a lot of people that depend on the bus, especially senior citizens.”
Authority officials worked with Trafford last spring to retain bus service and shuffle bus stops in town despite the closing of the Trafford Veterans Memorial Bridge for reconstruction.
Though the bridge isn't scheduled to reopen until late 2013, the authority intends to continue the detoured routes, Pharo said.
Council President Rich Laird said he hopes the authority is getting what it needs to keep the routes in place long-term because bus service is a “big asset” for residents.
“Once the bridge project is done, we'll put the bus stop back in there (at Brinton Avenue and Fifth Street) and continue like we did in the past.”
Staff writer Chris Foreman contributed to this report.
Tom Fontaine is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7847 or firstname.lastname@example.org.