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Hopewell Express gives lift to riders

Program makes it possible for some to work

Program makes it possible for some to work

December 07, 2007|By JOSHUA BOWMAN

HAGERSTOWN ? Mondale Allen of Hagerstown used to spend as much as $75 per week commuting to and from work.

With five children it was a strain on his wallet, but he had no choice.

Allen does not own a car, so the only way he could get to and from his job at Home Depot Direct on Hopewell Road was by taxi.

But Allen's options expanded in September when the Washington County Department of Social Services launched a free, pilot shuttle service between downtown Hagerstown and Hopewell Road.

"For most of our clients, transportation is the main barrier to getting employment," said David A. Engle, the county's social services director.

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The Hopewell Express shuttle service was designed as an employment transportation service for people who live downtown but work at one of the many factories that line Hopewell Road and Hunters Green Parkway.

Local and state officials and U.S. Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett, R-6th, attended an official ribbon cutting Friday at Home Depot Direct to kick off the transportation service, which was created after more than two years of planning and collaboration among multiple county agencies and Hopewell Road employers.

"It has been a unique venture. It's the first time this local management board has gotten into an economic driver," said Stephanie Stone, director of the Partnership for Children and Families.

Stone said the group decided to use leftover funds from a state Community Partnership grant as seed money for the service, which makes multiple stops near the large industries in the area, including FedEx Ground, Home Depot Direct, Lenox, PetSmart and Staples.

Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, said it is "notable" any time groups can provide access to jobs in Washington County.

"A paycheck and a job is the greatest form of welfare ever invented," Munson said before the ribbon cutting.

Washington County Transportation Department Director Kevin D. Cerrone said ridership on the Hopewell Express has grown from 46 rides to more than 100 rides per week since the program started in September.

PetSmart General Manager Rick Domzalski said a few of his employees use the service, but he thinks there is potential for more.

"I think there is a whole group of people who live downtown who probably don't even bother to fill out an application because they don't think they can get here," Domzalski said.

Cerrone said the county will apply within the next year for a state grant that would allow the service to be added to the County Commuter bus system, which he said would expand the service's routes and visibility.

Fore more information on Hopewell Express, call 240-420-2300, or visit http://www.washco-md.net/public_works/commuter/trans.html and click on "Hopewell Express Transit Service."

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