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Transit seeks stimulus money for expansion

Federal funding is being sought to make possible a long-planned major expansion of Island Transit’s headquarters located on Central Whidbey Island.

Island Transit officials spent last week putting the final touches on a grant application for $22.4 million in federal stimulus dollars. If approved, the money would pay for construction of a 49,000-square-foot headquarters, which would provide a huge upgrade from Island Transit’s current 6,000-square-foot building, which is located near the southeast edge of Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve.

Island Transit is submitting a grant to get a piece of a $1.5 billion discretionary fund set aside in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Transit officials are looking to construct two buildings to replace its current location, which they say is too small for the transit system. The improved campus would include a 14,000-square-foot administrative building and a 33,000-square-foot maintenance building.

Executive Director Martha Rose said the current headquarters only has two bus bays to service Island Transit’s fleet of 200 vehicles and its 120 employees work in a building that has one restroom.

The 25-page application includes a cost/benefit analysis, which shows the savings Island Transit would enjoy over the course of the next 20 years. Rose said the analysis predicts a $22.5 million in savings that will result from having the larger facility.

Among the items the seven-page analysis highlights: Extra space will help with preventative maintenance and repair projects; providing space to store parts, which would speed up the time for repairs; and installing an on-site fuel station will allow Island Transit to purchase fuel at bulk rates and help reduce fuel consumption.

Island Transit has been operating out of its current building since 1988. Since then the staff has been squeezed for space as Island Transit has steadily expanded.

The analysis also points out the environmental benefits if Island Transit continues to see a 5 percent ridership increase per year over the next 20 years. Estimates show the new headquarters would prevent 255,605 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions in the next 20 years. In addition, the on-site fuel facility will reduce CO2 emissions by an addition 1,763 metric tons.

Rose said she should learn by February whether Island Transit receives the grant.

“A lot of the money goes to big metropolitan areas,” Rose said, but added there is a rural emphasis written into the program which could drive funding to smaller agencies.

If Island Transit receives the funding, Rose said construction should start soon after. Island Transit’s board approved the design of the new headquarters nearly two years ago. Rose said the project has undergone site plan review and officials are close to applying for a building permit.

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