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Lack of funding kills county transit service

Hope that the state Legislature would restore funding for transit projects statewide were crushed last week.

Hope that the Washington Legislature would restore funding for transit projects statewide were crushed last week as a special legislative session appears unable to provide more money for rural bus service.

"My understanding is that there is nothing in what they're considering that would put more money back into transit grants," said Roger Gadway, director of Mt. Adams Transportation Service. "That's what I've heard from people at the state level."

As a result, the Mt. Adams Transportation Service bus system is being largely dismantled, less than four months after it began.

"It seems unlikely enough that there's any money available that we're shutting down after Friday," Gadway said. "Without any hope we can't keep going. I haven't talked to anyone who thinks they'll put any more funds into rural mobility."

What it translates into for Klickitat County are employee layoffs: two full-time drivers and several part-time drivers are expected to lose their jobs. It also means the transit agency's three new buses will have to be returned to the city of Everett, which had leased the vehicles to Mt. Adams Transportation Service.

The human cost is more difficult to measure, but some who have been depending on the new service are worried.

Bingen resident Pat Schiappa has been taking career-development classes at Columbia Gorge Community College in The Dalles, but soon he will have no way to get to school.

"I'll miss classes," Schiappa said. "There are no other options."

Schiappa added that cutting funding for the service was a mistake by the Legislature.

"I'm not the only one who's being affected," he said. "I'll miss classes; another lady won't be able to get to work. People are losing jobs and will have to go back to welfare because of this. It's really ridiculous."

A joint meeting of members of the board and advisory committees of the Klickitat County Public Transportation Benefit Area will meet in Goldendale on the evening of July 26 to consider options for public transportation services in the county.

"We'll try to assess what has taken place and what alternatives there are," said White Salmon Mayor Roger Holen, chair of the PTBA board. "We'll also assess the viability of putting some type of levy on the November ballot."

The meeting, which will be held at the Klickitat County Courthouse, is open to the public.

However, there is little optimism now that the Legislature has cut transit funding.

Gadway said Mt. Adams Transportation Service would continue to provide limited "Dial-A-Ride" services.

Gadway pointed out that the three daily runs between Goldendale and White Salmon were averaging about four or five riders each run, each way.

"That's not a huge ridership, but people are depending on it to get to employment and get to school," Gadway said. "We expected to build on it, but now we won't be getting that opportunity."


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