City gets $15 million for RTS maintenance facility


RTS buses navigate SW Second Avenue in Gaiensville in this May 19, 2011 file photo.

Published: Thursday, July 26, 2012 at 5:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, July 26, 2012 at 5:00 p.m.

The city of Gainesville has received a $15 million federal grant to go toward construction of a new Regional Transit System maintenance facility and administrative building south of downtown.

The city's grant was part of $787 million in Federal Transit Administration awards announced Monday.

Gainesville also received an $878,500 FTA grant to go toward replacing fare boxes, which combined for the largest award in the state, according to the city.

"It shows the confidence FTA has in the city of Gainesville, the commitment we've made to transit and the results we've had," City Manager Russ Blackburn said.

Gainesville now has received three federal grants totaling approximately $34 million for construction of the maintenance facility, RTS spokesman Chip Skinner said.

RTS officials say they believe the latest round of grant funding will allow for construction of the full facility to occur at once, Skinner said. The prior expectation was phased construction over more than a decade and a projected $50 million cost.

"We have all the money to construct it in one fell swoop," Skinner said. "Instead of the facility being $50 million, it will cost us $35 million, so there will be a savings of $15 million."

The new maintenance facility has a projected capacity of as many as 200 buses. Combined, the maintenance facility and administration offices will cover more than 140,000 square feet.

The indoor facility will have a 16-bay maintenance area, fuel islands, an area for bodywork and painting, and a large multi-bay bus wash structure.

By comparison, the city's current facility has more than 100 buses parked outdoors — in a lot designed to accommodate 70 buses — and a six-bay maintenance area. Combined, the maintenance, administration and operations buildings are 30,000 square feet.

"We have a wholly inefficient and dilapidated maintenance facility currently … what we have doesn't work," Blackburn said. "We don't have enough room to repair our buses."

The FTA would not give Gainesville federal funds to purchase new buses without an expanded maintenance facility, he added.

Six hybrid buses recently added to the fleet were purchased with campus development funds from the University of Florida.

In late 2011, the City Commission selected a design-build team consisting of construction company Charles Perry Partners, architectural firm Ponikvar & Associates and engineering firm Causseaux, Hewett & Walpole for the project.

The new facility is planned on wooded property south of the current RTS facility. The location is south of Depot Avenue and east of South Main Street, generally bounded by Southeast Veitch Street and Southeast 10th Avenue.

Construction is projected to start late this year or in early 2013.

Contact Christopher Curry at 374-5088 or chris.curry@gvillesun.com.

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