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Connect Transit Lands $8 Million Federal Grant For Downtown Transfer Center

Passengers board a bus in Uptown Normal's transfer center.
Connect Transit
The federal government has announced $8 million for Connect Transit to build a transfer center in downtown Bloomington.

Bloomington-Normal's public bus system will get an additional $8 million for a planned downtown Bloomington transfer center.
U.S. Reps. Rodney Davis and Darin LaHood say the money comes from a competitive grant process through the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Transit Administration.

The funding will help replace an on-street transfer site in front of the McLean County Law and Justice Center.

“This money gets us closer to the dream of a downtown transfer station in Bloomington," said Ryan Whitehouse, chairman of Connect Transit's board of trustees.

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

Connect Transit has talked about a transfer center for several years and received earlier grants to help plan the facility.

“The Downtown Transportation Center has been a key infrastructure project for many years,"  said outgoing Connect Transit General Manager Isaac Thorne. "This project will greatly enhance our customers experience and improve the essential transit service we provide."

Chief Operating Officer Martin Glaze said how close the system is to fully funding the project depends, in part, on which site is selected.

“We may have purchase costs. We may have demolition costs,” Glaze said. “Depending on those factors, we may have enough, or we may need to look for additional funding.”

Glaze said Connect Transit could leverage the federal funding it has been awarded to secure state grants for the project. He said state funding has remained stable despite the pandemic.

“As long as we continue to be funded through the state at our current levels, even through COVID, I think we are where we need to be,” Glaze said.

Connect Transit hired Bloomington-based Farnsworth Group to explore multiple sites and will present three options for the transit agency to consider.

Transit officials have said they plan to choose a site by the end of the year.

Thorne lands new job

Meanwhile, days after Connect Transit announced Thorne was resigning as its general manager, the mayor of Knoxville, Tennessee, named him as that city’s director of transit.

Thorne has worked for Connect Transit for 13 years, the last three as general manager. His last day with Connect Transit will be Aug. 21.

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Eric Stock is the News Director at WGLT. You can contact Eric at ejstoc1@ilstu.edu.
WGLT Senior Reporter Charlie Schlenker has spent more than three award-winning decades in radio. He lives in Normal with his family.