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Washington County offers ticket to ride

April 13, 2007|by DAN DEARTH

HAGERSTOWN - Washington County will begin offering round-trip rides this summer between downtown Hagerstown and Hopewell Road near Valley Mall in an effort to help residents without transportation find jobs, according to Kevin Cerrone, Washington County's director of public transportation.

The transportation is free and probably will start in early July, Cerrone said Thursday during a transportation forum in Hagerstown, where local officials discussed the progress and needs associated with the county's public transit system.

Cerrone said grants totaling about $166,000 from the Washington County Community Partnership will pay for the program's operating expenses.

The grants will cover the cost of leasing two vans to make the runs, said Rosalind Martin, assistant director of family investment for the Washington County Department of Social Services.

Martin said the program will give residents without transportation a better opportunity to find jobs at businesses that provide benefits and pay $10 to $12 an hour - well above the minimum wage.

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"Even if we help a small number ... That is a worthwhile investment," she said. "We just need to get the word out."

The stops downtown haven't been determined, but the vans would make several runs per day, Martin said.

Another topic that the forum covered was the county's struggle to provide a transportation plan that will keep pace with projected growth.

Tony Dahbura, chairman of the Greater Hagerstown Transportation Task Force, said there isn't enough available funding to throw into public transportation, including road construction.

It will take about $2.5 billion over the next 25 years to improve local transportation infrastructures, he said. Only a fraction of that funding is expected to be available, he said.

In many cases, the state distributes federal funding for transportation projects to larger cities and leaves less-populated areas out in the cold, he said.

One possible solution could be to use lobbyists to secure more local funding from the state and federal governments, he said.

"We need the state to step back into the picture," Dahbura said. "We almost have to have a collapse in our transportation infrastructure before people pay attention."

Members of the forum also discussed improving coordination among several agencies for using wheelchair-accessible vans and expanding transit availability on weekends.




Forum included several speakers



Speakers at Thursday's Transportation Forum in Hagerstown were:

· Tony Dahbura, chairman of the Greater Hagerstown Transportation Task Force

· Walt Lachenmayr, human resources manager of Staples Inc. Distribution Center

· Rosalind Martin, assistant director of family investment for the Washington County Department of Social Services

· William Beard, Commission on Aging board member

· Kevin Cerrone, Washington County director of public transportation

· Rod MacRae, Washington County Health Department administrator

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