Washington County Hopewell Express Receives Line-Saving Grant

A free bus service connecting low-income workers to jobs in Washington County received a one-time grant from the Maryland Transit Administration (MTA), enabling it to continue operating for another two years. The Washington County Community Action Council (CAC) received the good news about the $267,000 grant last week. Without it, the CAC would have to shut down the Hopewell Express by July 1, 2018.

From Herald-Mail Media:

“This is a one-time award,” said Geordie Newman, president and chief executive officer of the CAC, at a meeting with stakeholders Thursday at the Elgin Station Community Center in Hagerstown. “This is not a renewable grant.”

With no financial solution in sight, the CAC would be forced to shut down the Hopewell Express on July 1, 2018.

But Newman said he was surprised to learn on Tuesday that the MTA had found $267,485 to keep the buses running for the next two years.

Originating at the federal level, the money is made available through MTA’s 5310 grant program. The grant is awarded in two-year cycles, and requires the CAC to come up with a 50 percent match.

“We were able to find the money, fortunately, at the last minute,” James Raszewski, director of the Maryland Department of Transportation’s office of local transit support, said at Thursday’s meeting. “But unless the federal government increases funding, I would not continue to count on the 5310 program. … We have found additional funding, but it’s a one-shot deal.”

Raszewski said for fiscal 2018, which starts Saturday, the MTA received $4.2 million in grant requests from organizations that operate in the rural areas of the state. It awarded $1.3 million in grants.

The CAC has operated the Hopewell Express since 2010. The fleet of 12 buses runs Monday through Saturday morning, serving employers west of Hagerstown.

The free transportation service is for employees in the Hopewell Road corridor, including the Sheetz gas station, Tractor Supply, Fed Ex, Staples Distribution Center and the Pavestone Co.

Newman said the program is critical to riders.

“This is providing a service to help those who are in financial crisis,” he said.