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Mon Valley bus route restored

| Tuesday, Aug. 13, 2013, 12:13 a.m.

Port Authority buses soon will ramble through areas of the Mon Valley where the public transportation agency pulled out more than two years ago.

Beginning Sept. 1, Port Authority will restore service to the 55 Glassport, known as the 55 Jefferson before it was one of 29 routes axed in March 2011 to balance the agency's budget.

“While it is impossible to restore all 29 routes cut in 2011, we are able to restore this one,” said Jim Ritchie, Port Authority spokesman.

Uncertainty over the future of the Heritage WorkLink van transportation program threatens to leave Mon Valley residents without public transportation options, and the Port Authority's somewhat improved financial situation allows the agency to restore the route without raising fares or making cuts elsewhere.

Ritchie cited favorable labor negotiations with Port Authority workers as one reason money became available.

Heritage Community Initiatives, which operates the WorkLink shuttle program, appreciates the restored service, said Amy Schnarrenberger, development director.

“The residents of the Mon Valley need it,” she said.

WorkLink's fixed-route van service provides 10,000 to 13,000 rides per month, Schnarrenberger said. Program operators hope the state can cover $1 million lost when federal funding expired on June 30.

WorkLink serves riders from McKeesport, Port Vue, Glassport, Clairton, North Versailles, East Pittsburgh and Turtle Creek.

The Port Authority route will serve Clairton and Jefferson west of the Monongahela River and North Versailles, McKeesport, Port Vue and Glassport to the east. Communities not served include Liberty and Versailles and portions of others.

Port Authority officials hope to work with WorkLink to have vans connect those communities with the 55 Glassport route, Ritchie said.

Heritage is exploring options, Schnarrenberger said.

“It's too soon for us to comment on what that might look like,” Schnarrenberger said. “But there definitely is a need.”

Jason Cato is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7936 or jcato@tribweb.com.

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