Island Transit officially opens new facility

The new Island Transit Main Base Facility had its official ribbon-cutting ceremony Saturday. After breaking ground in April 2012, the base, with a total of 54,588 square feet in the four buildings, is officially open.

The new Island Transit Main Base Facility had its official ribbon-cutting ceremony Saturday.

After breaking ground in April 2012, the base, with a total of 54,588 square feet in the four buildings, is officially open.

Island Transit started in 1987, and the old building, which was 6,000 square feet, was large enough at the time with only 20 employees and 5 buses, but it quickly became too small.

Martha Rose, executive director of Island Transit, started submitting for grants in 1996, when the department had long since outgrown the building.

In 2011, Island Transit was awarded a grant from the Federal Transit Administration State of Good Repairs program, for a total of $17.92 million. Island Transit provided a 20 percent match on the funds, for a total of $22.4 million for the overall cost of the project.

“It’s really great to see the investment in transportation,” said Joe Downes, congressional staffer in Senator Maria Cantwell’s office, “especially in a time when that is becoming more and more of an issue, as gas prices go up, among other things.”

The grand opening event Saturday included open tours of the administration building and a ribbon cutting ceremony. The administration building, with a building theme called “Melodic Fog,” includes historical pictures of Island County, pictures of the transition from the old building to the new facilities, including construction pictures, and furniture built from six trees that were taken down at the site of the old building due to fungus. Rose said doing so “kind of broke our hearts,” but that they honored the trees to the best of their ability. All the furniture in their lobby and conference rooms is made artistically from those trees.

The need for a new transit facility was a pressing one, with over 130 employees and over 200 vehicles, which previously had all been squeezed into the old facility, with only one toilet.

“We see a lot of situations similar to what we had here at Island Transit,” said Richard Krochalis, the Federal Transit Administrator for Region 10, which includes Island County. “Poor facilities, buses needing maintenance.”

Krochalis said that the reason Island Transit was able to receive the federal grant was because of three Ps: “promotion, perseverance and professionalism.” He said that it was largely thanks to the efforts of Rose that they were selected to receive the grant.

Bob Clay, Coupeville chairman of Island Transit’s Board of Directors, said that when he spoke of this project to anyone, people always wondered why he was so proud of the new facilities being built.

“I used to be embarrassed to go to our other facility,” he said, “and embarrassed that our employees had such terrible, terrible facilities to work in.”

Now, Island Transit is located partially in Ebey’s Reserve, and has been landscaped to include many native plants and trees. According to Clay, they even used green concrete and asphalt, so that water will go right underneath it to the ground instead of pooling on top.

“Everything here is a reflection of how we want to support our environment,” said Clay.

Commissioner Helen Price Johnson was also present at the grand opening.

“It is very appropriate for this community to gather and support this new facility and celebrate what we’ve created,” she said. “Island Transit has been a success story for this community for some time, and this new facility is really a testament to that legacy.”

Michael Schanche, community outreach representative from Rep. Rick Larsen’s office, read a letter from Larsen at the ceremony, in which he said, “I’m going to keep working to make sure that transit get its fair share, and that we keep investing in our roads, highways, bridges and transit.”

“We may have gotten a new facility,” said Clay, “but there are lots of needs throughout our community, and certainly in this region, where other transit systems are having a heck of a hard time.”

Clay said that they will definitely look to take Larsen’s offer of support up in future matters.

Anyone who wasn’t able to attend the grand opening but wished to see the new facility is always welcome to come tour the buildings, according to Rose.

Rose said she was especially grateful to Tiger Construction, the firm that built the new facilities, and the employees of Island Transit.

“We have a great staff,” she said. “They all gave 400 percent to this project. They’re dedicated and loyal.”

Though the building is not entirely complete yet, there are only minor projects left to complete, and the employees moved into the administration building in June 2013. Now that the administration, maintenance, fuel and wash buildings are all officially open, Rose said it’s “absolutely fabulous.”

Her parting words were, “Hallelujah. We’re in here.”