WRTA to Present Expansion Proposals to Trumbull

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Officials from the Western Reserve Transit Authority plan to meet with representatives from Trumbull County before the end of the year to discuss expanding public transportation there.

Dean Harris, executive director of WRTA, told Youngstown City Council’s Committee of The Whole Friday morning that an expansion would require approval of an amended founding resolution by City Council and the Board of Mahoning County Commissioners.

Any such expansion would also hinge on Trumbull County agreeing to a sales tax, he said. That could be achieved by either putting a measure on the ballot next year or through action from Trumbull County commissioners.

It is unclear as to how much additional sales tax would be needed to provide the service.

“At this point, we’re meeting with Trumbull County commissioners next Friday and present the two options,” Harris said. “After the election, they’ll make a decision on how to proceed.”

Additional details regarding new routes and services are still being ironed out, Harris said..

The concept of extending WRTA service into Trumbull County has received support from organizations such as the Western Reserve Port Authority, the Youngstown-Warren Regional Chamber and Eastgate Regional Council of Governments.

Trumbull County commissioners Frank Fuda and Mauro Cantalamessa have come out in support of the project. Commissioner Dan Polivka has said he opposes it.

As it stands, WRTA operates a service to Giant Eagle in Liberty Township and its Warren Express in Warren, which would be expanded with additional routes in the city, Harris said. Additional service in Warren was in the past funded by an Ohio Department of Transportation grant, which expires next year.

The new plan would make the service countywide, he said, extending routes into areas such as Hubbard and Lordstown.

In Lordstown, for example, General Motors and LG Chem are building a $2.3 billion electric vehicle battery manufacturing plant, Ultima Cells LLC, Harris noted. Also nearby, TJX HomeGoods is in the process of constructing a one million square-foot distribution center and Lordstown Motors plans to begin production of its all-electric pickup, The Endurance, next year.

Proponents of extending transportation service to these areas say it provides needed public access to employers, retailers and medical care.

Harris told the committee that WRTA would add between seven and nine new busses to serve the region, requiring another 35 to 40 new positions. “It would increase our service between 40% and 60%,” he said.

First Ward Councilman Julius Oliver asked whether expanding service to Trumbull County could end up impacting WRTA’s transportation commitments to Youngstown.

Harris replied that with the expansion, certain base costs could be spread between both counties, so it would actually free up additional resources in Youngstown and Mahoning County.

But in the end, it all comes down to Trumbull County agreeing to a sales tax, Harris noted.

“No funding, no service,” he said.

Copyright 2020 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.