PA: LATS May Benefit From Decade of Investment

Feb. 06--MOUNT CARMEL -- The Lower Anthracite Transportation System (LATS) may be considered for funding as part of what Gov. Tom Corbett billed as the Decade of Investment.

Executive Director Megan Janolek said she hasn't heard any news on how the transportation plan would affect LATS, but she noted there's been discussions about expanding the bus system outside eastern Northumberland County.

For now, transit projects in the state and the amount of funding have not been officially identified in the transportation law passed, said Rick Mason, public information officer for PennDOT District 3-0.

At one time during the process, the borough-based LATS was considered for $800,000 in funding for buses and bus-related facilities, according to a document on PennDOT's website under the Decade of Investment plan.

The document, titled "Statewide Projects Funded Under Senate Bill 1," was used to list projects that were being considered for that particular bill before it was combined with the governor's plan.

Senate Bill 1 is not the version that ultimately passed, but the project may still be one of the projects completed under the Decade of Investment, Mason said.

Corbett in November signed the state's new transportation funding legislation into law. It invests an additional $2.3 to $2.4 billion into roads, bridges and transit systems by the fifth year of the plan. The revenue will increase through a gradual removal of the cap on the state Oil Company Franchise Tax over five years, a change that's already being blamed for high gasoline prices for consumers.

In the original Senate Bill 1, $630 million was considered for transit systems, including specific projects in 44 counties and a $100 million move to provide shared ride transit providers for all counties except Allegheny and Philadelphia.

A transit reorganizational study and meeting between PennDOT officials and transit coordinators across the state will be held soon to discuss increasing costs, funding changes and service demands, Janolek said.

Meanwhile, the Transportation Development Plan (TDP) for LATS, which consultant Michael Baker Corp., Harrisburg, is preparing for public review this month, has not yet been completed, Janolek said.

Routes are being tweaked to accommodate a few changes before the plan is finished, she said.

The TDP report needs to be completed before adding a night run, extended hours and new buses.

PennDOT provided $495,000 in grant money this year to LATS. Last year, it was $517,000. If the TDP recommends expansion of LATS service, Janolek can request more funding, but she won't know what they'll get from the state until May.

Additionally, LATS has $327,000 in state money to use for new buses, she previously said.

Managed by Mount Carmel Borough and designed to provide affordable public transportation in eastern Northumberland County, LATS is funded mostly from federal and state grants through PennDOT and the Lottery Senior Citizen Free Transit Fund.

Copyright 2014 - The News-Item, Shamokin, Pa.

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