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Ribbon cutting slider

Hazleton Public Transit (HPT) held a ribbon cutting ceremony Thursday for the new John M. Ford Bus Storage and Maintenance Facility at 5200 Old Airport Road in Hazle Township.

The $26 million facility, which is named for the former Hazleton mayor who was instrumental in the creation of what is today Hazleton Public Transit, is one of the largest projects in the City of Hazleton's history. The nearly 50,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art building will house HPT's fleet of 12 fixed-route buses and three paratransit vans. It includes an automatic bus wash system, bus maintenance service area, and compressed natural gas fueling station.

Many federal, state and local dignitaries and representatives were in attendance for the ceremony, which included a luncheon featuring a taste of Hazleton's famous foods and beverages, as well as tours of the facility.

Hazleton Public Transit Director Ralph Sharp said this facility is vital to HPT's mission to continue providing public transportation for everyone in Luzerne, Carbon and Schuylkill counties. “I'd like to thank all of the federal and state representatives for their help in obtaining the funding that made this project possible. Having everything we need for bus storage and maintenance under one roof is important for our operations. It's especially vital to have our own fueling station because, in the future, our fixed route fleet will be operated completely by compressed natural gas.”

Hazleton Mayor Jeff Cusat said many residents rely on HPT's bus service to get to jobs, medical appointments and other important places around town. “As the fastest growing city in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, according to many online sources, we are proud to be making improvements not only in transportation but also in many other areas that make Greater Hazleton a better place to live, work and play. It's an honor to dedicate this building today to the late John M. Ford because he was instrumental in establishing Hazleton Public Transit during his time as mayor.”

Pennsylvania Department of Transportation Secretary Michael Carroll said, “I'm honored to be here to celebrate this wonderful success for Hazleton. As the sign out front says, transit truly does make life easier. PennDOT was proud to contribute $6 million in funding for this project. PennDOT meets the transportation needs of 13 million people every day. The success of transit comes with great facilities and now we have one here in Greater Hazleton.”

Federal Transit Administration Region 3 Administrator Terry Garcia Crews said, “It's a privilege to be here. The FTA was very proud to contribute $20 million to this project. It's very rewarding to see Hazleton Public Transit use FTA funds to invest in new transit projects. This modern facility means HPT will be able to better maintain its assets at a lower cost, which brings greater reliability to its operations.”

Pennsylvania Senator David Argall recalled using bus transportation as a child to get around town and said it's a vital means of transportation for Greater Hazleton residents. “Transportation is important for employees to get to work. We talk so much about the number of jobs in our communities and this service is needed so much for the jobs of today. Congratulations to all who worked on this project. There is no doubt in my mind that this will serve us for many years to come.”

Pennsylvania Representative Dane Watro said he was “humbly honored” to be in attendance for this momentous event for the Greater Hazleton community. “HPT's bus transportation serves so many functions: taking people to shopping malls, doctor appointments and putting food on families' tables. This is a job well done. Thank you to everyone who was involved in this project.”

Prior to his role as Hazleton's mayor, Ford served as chairman of the Hazleton Transit Authority and organized the Greater Hazleton Transit System, which helped the HTA obtain financing for both the purchase and operating expenses of new buses. He also served as secretary of the Hazleton Parking Authority and was chairman of the Greater Hazleton Chamber of Commerce's Transportation Task Force. After his election as mayor in 1985, Ford's administration chose to form Hazleton Public Transit and have the buses operate through the city rather than being a separate entity under the HTA.