Ground Transportation Center renovation about to begin

Project to conclude decade-plus saga for Cedar Rapids transit depot

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Patrons of the Cedar Rapids city bus system are spending their last winter in a temporary, post-flood bus depot comprised of modular homes in a southeast Cedar Rapids parking lot.

The City Council on Tuesday approved plans for the renovation of the flood-damaged Ground Transportation Center bus depot in a $11.9 million project that also will change Fourth and Fifth avenues SE around the depot from one-way to two-way streets between First and Third Streets SE.

The project is designed to make the operation of the bus depot more safe than it had been. In the past buses backed out of stalls, putting patrons and pedestrians at risk. In the new design, the buses will pull in and exit without having to back up.

The project also will remove a metal barricade along First Street SE in front of the depot and install a sidewalk so pedestrians donít feel forced to stay on the other side of the street.

Doug Carper, a Public Works Department engineer, said this week that the work on the depot itself will be complete by November.

The renovation project brings to an end a long, twisting trip, more than a decade long, as changing city councils have tried to figure out what they wanted in a city transit depot.

The story started when the city secured an $8 million federal grant to build a second downtown transit facility with parking ramp on First Avenue SE across from the downtown hotel. Another council decided to move the project to the 600 block of Second Street SE, only to have the next council note that it didnít make sense to build a new transit facility down the block from the existing Ground Transportation Center depot. The council then decided to abandon the GTC depot and move the new facility across from the Bottleworks loft condominiums, 905 Third St. SE. Next, the council considered buying two-plus blocks of downtown property that now houses a Pepsi warehousing operation and putting the transit facility on part of that.

In the end, to save money, the council decided to return to the flood-damaged Ground Transportation Center depot, which opened 30 years ago.

Parking lots now are going up on two previous sites purchased by the city for the transit facility ó across from the DoubleTree by Hilton at the U.S. Cellular Center and in the 600 block of Second Street SE.

The cityís Carper said $7.2 million of the original federal transit grant will help pay for the $11.9 million GTC renovation project. Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster funds will contribute $1.54 million and the city is paying the balance, $3.16 million.

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