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Transit system prepares for growth

Two new facilities, more paratransit vehicles and replacement vans are some of the things Island Transit is penciling into a draft of its annual six-year Transit Development Plan.

However, a public hearing has to take place before it can be approved.

Island Transit wants to eventually replace its Coupeville headquarters facility.

“This facility has served us wonderfully but when we moved in we had five buses,” said Martha Rose, Island Transit’s executive director. Island Transit started operating out of its current building in 1988.

The proposed construction project will provide more room for the 75-employee operation and better facilities to maintain the vehicle fleet.

“We don’t want to build a facility and then outgrow it in two years,” Rose said.

Island Transit also wants a new facility on Camano Island. Rose said the current facility, which Island Transit leases, is up for sale and she wants to move before the property is sold.

But before construction can begin, Island Transit needs to secure the estimated $7.7 million to pay for both facilities.

Rose said adding the projects into Island Transit’s six-year plan provides the documentation needed by officials who dole out federal grant money.

The two buildings would be funded through $6.2 million in grants from the Federal Transit Administration and $1.5 million in matching money.

Rose said that it will be about a year before Island Transit knows whether the funding is approved.

In the meantime, Island Transit is receiving a $1 million grant to pay for the final design of both the Coupeville facility and the Camano Island facility.

Should Island Transit not receive federal funding, the projects would be delayed until funding is secured, Rose said.

Other things in the planning process include a variety of equipment items such as replacing vanpool vans, more buses and bus shelters.

In all, Island Transit projects to spend nearly $20 million in capital improvements. Of that amount, $16 million is expected to be funded through grants, according to the Transit Development Plan.

Rose said Island Transit also needs to buy some more vehicles for the paratransit program. Vehicles in the program are heavily used and have fully depreciated by the time Island Transit replaces them.

Island Transit is required to update its six-year plan every year and then submit it to the Washington State Department of Transportation.

Copies are available by calling Sandra Kuykendall, Island Transit Administration and Finance manager, at 678-7771.

A public hearing on the Island Transit’s Development Plan is scheduled for Friday, March 19, at 9:30 a.m. at the Island County Administration Building in Room 116.

You can reach News-Times reporter Nathan Whalen at nwhalen@whidbeynewstimes.com.

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