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GCRTA Would Lose Significant Funding Under DeWine's Proposed Transit Budget

Gov. Mike DeWine’s proposal to cut public transit funding by nearly 90 percent could mean fewer capital improvements for the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority over the next two years. DeWine’s proposal, released last week, recommends a funding line for public transportation be cut from $70 million a year down to $7 million.

RTA received a total of about $25 million from the fund over the last two years, said Deputy General Manager of Engineering and Project Management Mike Schipper. Without continued state funding, he said, the transit agency will have to slow down some capital projects.

“Our unfunded backlog of capital programs is still $514 million,” Schipper said. “If we were to lose $15 and $10 again, that’s another $25, we fall farther and farther behind.”

State funds in the last two years went toward the purchase of 16 buses and a contract to replace part of a rail line, Schipper said. The transit agency does have other funds it can use to make those kinds of investments, he said, but a funding cut means fewer new buses and slower progress.

“So we’re working with our state senators and state house representatives to see if they will put something in on their side,” Schipper said. “The governor’s initial proposal is just one piece of it. We’re working with our delegation to see if those funds can be restored.”

Under DeWine’s proposal, Schipper said, it’s unlikely that RTA would receive much funding from the state at all.

“At those levels, they’re usually supporting the smaller transit authorities, so we wouldn’t be doing the things we’ve done the last two years,” he said.

The agency is also keeping an eye on federal policies on public transit, Schipper said, and looking into ways to receive support that way. The new Biden administration could bring about some options, he said, particularly from the Senate banking committee, headed by Ohio’s Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown.

“It’s very exciting to have Sen. Brown in a position of strength leading his committee,” Schipper said. “We really hope and are working with our delegation to see if something will happen on the federal side.”

RTA has lost ridership and sales tax revenue due to the ongoing pandemic. But federal funding has helped to bridge those gaps, Schipper said.

“We have been fortunate that the CARES money that we’ve obtained really has helped us stabilize our operating budget for last year, this year and next year,” Schipper said.

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