$17 million Island Transit job begins in April

You’d be hard-pressed to find any frowns at Island Transit these days.

After 14 years of saving, grant writing and sometimes begging, the public transit agency that serves Whidbey and Camano Islands is on the verge of getting its long awaited new headquarters in Coupeville.

Earlier this month, the board of directors approved an “intent to award” contract with Everson-based Tiger Construction and a groundbreaking ceremony is  planned for Tuesday, April 10.

“It certainly is exciting news,” said Bob Clay, chairman of the board. “It’s not very often you come across a $17 million contract in Island County.”

Tiger’s bid came in at $17.18 million, making it the lowest responsive bidder out of five total firms that submitted proposals. A few details have yet to be hammered out, but once complete, the board’s decision essentially empowers Martha Rose, transit director, to sign the contract.

Funding for the project became available last fall when Island Transit was awarded a $17.92 million grant through the “State of Good Repair Programs,” which is administered by the Federal Transit Authority.

Rose was alerted of the good news by U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen. The call came in Oct. 12 at about 2:30 p.m., a day and time which Rose said she will likely never forget.

“I said, ‘Oh my god, I’m going to pee my pants,’” said Rose, adding that her comment earned a healthy chuckle from Congressman Larsen.

Island Transit officials had been working to replace its outdated facility off Highway 20 since 1997. It was a little overwhelming to suddenly learn that the dream of a new facility was finally going to come true after countless failed grant and other funding attempts, Rose said.

She relayed the news to fellow transit workers via loud speaker. The ensuing uproar was loud enough that it was heard by neighboring businesses.

“The place went ballistic,” Rose said.

Not only does this mean a huge and long needed expansion, but it also means an end to the days of having to share just one bathroom. For the record, the new facility will have a total of 19 heads once complete.

“More than one toilet is going to be stunning,” Rose said.

Island Transit’s current facility is about 6,000 square feet. That includes office space and a two-bay maintenance area for its fleet of about 200 vehicles. The new facility, which the grant terms require be built to accommodate 20 years of projected growth, will total 43,000 square feet.

The administrative and operations building will be 14,000 square feet and the 12-bay maintenance building 29,000 square feet. Plans for the new facility also include a fueling station and wash station, and a new entrance on the east side of the property.

The federal grant does require a funding match of 20 percent. It’s estimated the total cost of the project will tab out to about $22.4 million. According to Barbara Savary, administration and finance manager for Island Transit, the extra money will cover a variety of expenses.

They include administration costs, new furniture for both buildings, consulting expenses, maintenance bay equipment, a new information technology (IT) system, phones, security systems, etc.

Rose said she’s hoping construction will begin shortly after the groundbreaking in April. The project will proceed in phases with employees moving into the structure by summer of 2013. Once that happens, the old buildings will be demolished to make way for additional parking.


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