TRANSPORTATION Transit plan to go to Eastgate board

Several Trumbull communities are contributing to the program.
AUSTINTOWN -- A plan for demand-response transportation in Trumbull County must clear one more hurdle before heading to the Federal Transit Administration.
The Technical Advisory Committee of Eastgate Regional Council of Governments unanimously passed a resolution Thursday recommending that the agency set aside $248,500 in federal money for a one-year pilot plan for Trumbull County transportation.
Eastgate's general policy board, which also must approve the plan, meets at 10 a.m. Jan. 28.
"This is definitely a step in the right direction for the program and hopefully, we will make you proud," said Mark Hess, Niles coordinator of engineering, grants and development and a TAC member.
What's in plan: Niles Mayor Ralph A. Infante Jr. proposed the plan, which calls for a rider to call and set up a pickup and drop-off time. Fares are determined based on origin and destination and whether the rider lives in one of the communities participating in the program.
Elderly and disabled passengers also would be eligible for reduced fares.
Trumbull County commissioners have agreed to contribute $120,000 next year, and Niles, Cortland, Howland, Liberty, McDonald, Vienna and Weathersfield each intend to kick in $1 per resident for a total of $194,939.
Still ahead: If the general policy board approves the plan later this month, Niles must submit application to the FTA, which has 90 days to review it. It also will be submitted to the federal labor department, which has 120 days to review it.
During the labor review, employee unions from the Western Reserve Transit Authority have the opportunity to object to the plan.
If FTA approves the plan, Niles plans to seek bids for a company to run a transportation system.
The resolution passed Thursday would convert $248,500 in highway funds to federal transportation funds. If FTA rejects Niles' plan, Eastgate has a year to convert the money back to highway funds and preserve the dollars for local projects, according to Eastgate officials.
Because the plan is for a pilot program in Trumbull County, it would have to go through a similar approval process in order to become a continuing program. Under the pilot program, federal funding that goes to WRTA isn't affected.
The Youngstown-Warren area receives about $2.5 million in federal transportation funds. The money goes to WRTA.

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