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Mounds of progress mark Island Transit project

By NATHAN WHALEN
South Whidbey Record Whidbey News Times
November 22, 2012 · Updated 9:48 AM
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Two construction workers install part of the roof of the maintenance bay at Island Transit’s new headquarters. / Nathan Whalen / The Record

The attention-catching mounds of dirt at Island Transit headquarters south of Coupeville will eventually come down.

Those large mounds will be knocked down and the material used for new landscaping around the agency’s new headquarters off Highway 20.

“We’re going to re-use it,” said Martha Rose, Island Transit’s executive director, about the mounds of dirt from construction. The mounds are covered to prevent unwanted weeds from sprouting and they will be used for berms and that will help shield the administrative building, maintenance building, large parking lot and fueling center from motorists driving on the highway.

Island Transit’s headquarters is located within the confines of Ebey’s Landing National Historic Reserve. Rose said Island Transit staff worked closely with the National Park Service to come up with a suitable design. The buildings will look like large barns and the campus has been designed with a theme that Rose describes as a “melodic fog.”

The plans for the new Island Transit headquarters were approved by the county’s Historic Review Committee, Rose said.

Workers are currently constructing a 15,000-square-foot administration and operations center that will include offices, training area, a dispatch center and room for information technology. Construction is also under way for a maintenance building with 12 bus bays.

Island Transit has been in its current headquarters building since the 1980s. The building has become cramped and the maintenance area isn’t large enough for the agency’s ever-expanding fleet.

Transit officials have been trying for years to build a new headquarters. Plans were stalled until Island Transit received $17.92 million awarded by the Federal Transit Authority’s “State of Good Repair” program. Everson-based Tiger Construction is building the facility. Construction began in April and is scheduled to wrap up in summer of 2013.

Rose said the project is currently on time and on budget.

One question that remains is how the agency’s secondary access will be incorporated into surrounding roads.

Martha Rose said plans were originally in place to close the intersections of Parker Road and Old Smith Prairie Road with Highway 20. The agency would build a new road between the two intersections. Plans changed, however, when nearby residents voiced concerns about the safety of the new intersection. The Washington State Department of Transportation is currently looking at options for the area. A public meeting will take place to inform residents about the options, but that meeting hasn’t been scheduled.

Rose said the secondary access is a requirement Island Transit has to meet for its occupancy permit from Island County.

Once the new campus is built and staff have moved in, the current metal headquarters building, which Rose said was built in the 1970s, will be demolished. It’s most famous for having a single restroom. That demolition is something Rose is looking forward to. She gets to take the first swing with the wrecking ball, she said.

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