Port Authority gets $45 million bailout

Funds will allow authority to avoid massive service cuts

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Members of a 10-county regional planning agency tonight approved Gov. Ed Rendell's plan to provide $45 million in emergency funding to postpone record-breaking Port Authority service cuts.

Members of the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission voted 27-22 to redirect unspent federal funds to the transit agency to head off a 35 percent reduction in service scheduled for March 13.

Port Authority CEO Steve Bland thanked the commission and revealed that the agency may attempt to stretch the $45 million over a longer period of time by making small service cuts in March and possibly later.

Mr. Rendell's plan was to completely fill the authority's 2010-11 projected budget deficit, postponing cuts until at least July 2011.

Mr. Bland said he heard sentiment from commission members in favor of a plan to spread the emergency funding over an extra year to give the state Legislature a full 18 months to address a transportation funding crisis affecting the Port Authority, other transit agencies, and PennDOT.

That plan would require a smaller reduction in service in March, possibly 15 percent, Mr. Bland said.

"Clearly it wouldn't be the level of disaster that 35 percent is but it would be harmful," he said.

He said the Port Authority board would be considering its options over the next several weeks.



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