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Connect Transit Seeks Environmental Assessment Of Former Pantagraph Building

Exterior of the former Pantagraph building downtown.
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The interim director of Bloomington-Normal's bus system said Monday the timeline on a new $18-20 million downtown transfer center is unclear, though it remains roughly two years.

Mark Peterson said Connect Transit is seeking proposals for an environmental impact study of the planto revamp the former Pantagraph newspaper building at 301 W. Washington St., in downtown Bloomington.

“I'm hoping the NEPA study will be three to four months, but I know the City of Champaign had a similar project. It went 18 months. Now, they had some complications so there were reasons it was that long. I'm hopeful we can move a lot quicker,” said Peterson.

The study is named after the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) passed in 1970 under the Nixon administration. It requires assessments on the physical, biological, and human environment.

"It's not only existing environmental issues, but it's what environmental issues are we creating — noise, light. It's a whole spectrum of things we have to look at. How will this improvement impact the environment, just everything," said Peterson.

Noise and light were among concerns voiced by residents near The Pantagraph building when the transit agency selected the property for reuse as the transfer center in February. Trustees also voiced questions about pedestrian traffic across a major thoroughfare.

Most federally funded projects require such a study. Peterson said even construction as small as bus stops require a smaller version of it. Connect Transit landed an $8 million Federal Transit Administration grant for the center in August 2020.

Peterson said Connect Transit also needs two appraisals of the property and a review appraisal before moving on to design stages.

The new center will serve 10 bus routes and 1,800 daily boardings.

WGLT Senior Reporter Charlie Schlenker has spent more than three award-winning decades in radio. He lives in Normal with his family.