WRTA Board Hopes Governor’s Cuts Are Restored
Full and original article posted on the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.
WORCESTER – Worcester Regional Transit Authority officials expressed hope Thursday that legislators will override Gov. Charlie Baker’s budget vetoes and keep the transit authority level-funded next year.
But just in case, leaders said, capital maintenance dollars could be used to cover any shortfall and not affect the condition of the bus fleet.
“It’s dangerous at best” to forgo preventative maintenance, cautioned WRTA Advisory Board member Douglas Belanger of Leicester. “If you get behind, it’s a black hole.”
WRTA Administrator Jonathan E. Church told the advisory board at its Thursday morning meeting that the governor’s budget vetoes had reduced the budget allocation for the state’s regional transit authorities from this year’s $82 million to $80 million. While hopeful that the veto amount would be restored as legislators negotiated the final budget, transit authority Assistant Administrator Thomas J. Coyne said the governor’s veto would lead to a $200,000 cut for the WRTA.
Mr. Coyne said the transit authority could, if need be, make up the amount by using money for preventative maintenance, but he emphasized that would come from federal money for maintaining capital projects, not from money the WRTA dedicates to maintaining equipment used for service.
He noted after the meeting that the WRTA will have, as of next year, a brand new maintenance facility, a hub that opened in 2013, and an updated fleet of buses.
But board members seemed hesitant about redirecting maintenance money, preferring that the governor’s vetoes be restored or, even better but unlikely, funding be increased.
“I’d be optimistic that the money gets back to $82 million,” said Jacob Sanders, an advisory board member representing the city manager’s office.
In other business:
Mr. Church reported excavation begins Monday for the last contaminated soil at the new Maintenance and Operations Facility on Quinsigamond Avenue. Referencing a Telegram & Gazette article that noted contaminated soil from the site was shipped to an Uxbridge location that allegedly lacked state oversight, Mr. Church said a small amount of soil from the WRTA site was sent to Uxbridge – 2,271 tons of more than 85,000 tons that were removed for disposal. The transit authority also had tested this soil in compliance with all environmental regulations prior to its being sent to the Uxbridge site, Mr. Church said.
The maintenance facility is mostly complete on the exterior, with landscaping, paving and more finishing up, Mr. Church told the board. The interior construction is also mostly complete, with fixtures and equipment currently being installed, Mr. Church reported. Advisory board members recommended the transit authority hold tours of the facility in conjunction with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.