Federal dollars bankroll Island Transit expansion
By NATHAN WHALEN
Whidbey News Times Staff reporter
October 22, 2011 · Updated 8:05 PM
Once a construction project is complete, Island Transit’s headquarters will be more than eight times larger than its current home.
Island Transit, widely known for its free bus service, was recently awarded $17.92 million in federal funding to help pay for a 51,000-square-foot transit center on Central Whidbey Island that will include new administrative offices, maintenance bays for its fleet and a refueling facility.
The agency received the money through the “State of Good Repair Programs” administered by the Federal Transit Authority. It was one of hundreds of projects that received part of $928 million in funding.
Martha Rose, executive director for Island Transit, said planning for the new project started in 1997. She said the expanded facility is needed to better maintain vehicles as Island Transit continues to expand.
Island Transit’s current headquarters is contained in a 6,000-square-foot building located on Highway 20 between the solid waste transfer station and Outlying Field. Currently the two bays at the Central Coupeville facility struggle to maintain the approximately 200 vehicles in Island Transit’s fleet that provides bus, paratransit and commuter van service on Whidbey and Camano islands.
“The walls are literally crumbling away,” Rose said of the current building that was constructed in the 1970s. It has only one bathroom and employees have to sign up on a waiting list to use it.
The new building will include 33,600 square feet for vehicle maintenance with 12 bus bays, 15,000 square feet for administration and public meeting space, and 3,000 square feet for bus washing and a refueling facility. In addition six bathrooms will be installed, to the relief of employees
Rose said the new facility is large enough to meet Island Transit’s needs for 20 years.
Located within the confines of Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve, the new building will help maintain the area’s historic and rural character, Rose said. She described the facility as a “melodic fog prairie design.” Rose emphasizes the trees and landscaping that will shield the campus from motorists traveling through the Reserve.
Rose said staff have been applying for grants since 2002 to secure funding. To win the $17.92 million, Island Transit had to provide approximately $4 million in matching dollars.
“This is huge news for Island Transit and for jobs on Whidbey Island,” she said.
Second District Congressman Rick Larsen said in a news release, “This grant will create much-needed construction jobs on the island. It will also replace an inadequate facility that no longer meets the needs of Island Transit’s growing operations.”
Rose said the construction project will employ more than 600 people.
In addition to applying for grants, Island Transit in 2006 partnered with the Navy and local conservation groups to preserve a wooded area near Outlying Field. As a result of the deal, Island Transit acquired more than seven acres of land to provide the footprint needed for the expansion.
With the money in hand, officials are busy obtaining permits from Island County and scheduling open houses to inform the public about the expansion. Rose doesn’t yet know when those open houses will take place or when construction will begin.
Once the new facility is built, the current building will be demolished.
to make room for parking and more trees and landscaping.
Contact Whidbey News Times Staff reporter Nathan Whalen at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-675-6611 ext. 5058.