The Port Authority of Allegheny will be faced with a $13.4 million deficit for their operating budget unless a solution can be found – which may include cutting routes or increasing fares. As of yet, the board has not decided on a course of action. Spokesman Jim Ritchie says the Port Authority board has had to resort to desperate measures to fix their operating budget more than a few times in the past.
“Unfortunately, one of the options that we rely on too much is dipping into our capital budget to plug the holes in our operating side. We don’t want to do that because when we don’t have money going into those kinds of maintenance projects, then things start to not get done. Things start to fall apart,” says Ritchie.
Part of the problem seems to be the “flat” funding stream that is coming from the state. Rising health care and benefits costs are beginning to outweigh the steady $212 million coming from the state for that purpose each year.
Ritchie says because the capital budget is separate from the operating budget, projects such as the North Shore connector and the new “Smart Card” fare system won’t be affected. Although $61.9 million in federal stimulus money was given to the Port Authority, Ritchie says it is reserved for routine maintenance projects. “[The money is for] taking care of the nuts and bolts of the system. We still don’t know what other kinds of monies we are going to get through the stimulus program, but hopefully we’ll find out about that soon,” says Ritchie.