Ground broken for $22.4 million Island Transit project

Dignitaries participate in a groundbreaking ceremony for Island Transit's new facility off Highway 20 just south of Coupeville.

More than a decade of effort came to fruition Tuesday when Island Transit held a groundbreaking ceremony signifying the start of construction on it’s new headquarters on Highway 20 just south of Coupeville.

The event was attended by a healthy crowd of supporters, employees and a host of dignitaries, which ranged from 2nd District Democratic Congressman Rick Larsen and elected officials from the multiple Whidbey Island municipalities that make up the transit agency’s board of directors to a ranking administrator with the Federal Transit Administration.

“As a local elected official, I never thought this day would come,” said Coupeville Town Councilman Bob Clay, who is also the chairman of the transit board.

“I am proud to be part of this,” he said.

The transportation service has been seeking funding to replace its existing base of operations with a new administrative building and maintenance shop, totaling 43,000 square feet, since the late 1990s.

The funding finally became available late last year when the transit agency was awarded a $17.92 million grant through the “State of Good Repair Programs,” which is administered by the Federal Transit Administration.

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

Congressman Larsen has been credited with being instrumental in the effort. At the podium, he said this was an expensive project but necessary as transit systems are vital to the overall health of a community.

“You can’t have a big league economy with a little league infrastructure,” Larsen said.

“This really is a great story and I’m really glad to be a part of it,” he said.

Gina Bull, designated speaker for state Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, D-Camano Island, was one of many who took to the microphone to credit Island Transit Director Martha Rose for her long years of effort and dedication to the project.

“This really is your project, Martha,” Bull said.

Echoing those sentiments was Island Transit operator Odis Jenkins. Also a deacon with Living Faith Christian Church in Oak Harbor, Jenkins led the crowd in a prayer blessing the project but before doing so acknowledged Rose’s long efforts and what she means to company employees.

“The words are not enough,” Jenkins said.

Rose was presented with a shovel decorated with the signatures of transit staff along with a poem talking about the project, the history of how it came to fruition and Rose’s personal contributions.

Following the ceremony, Rose said she was overwhelmed by the project finally becoming a reality and the many nice things said on her behalf.

“I really am speechless,” Rose said. “I can’t believe it.”

“I’m thrilled to death,” she said.