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Connect Transit Studies 3 Transfer Center Sites In Downtown Bloomington

Public transit buses lined up at curb
Ralph Weisheit
The Connect Transit Board of Trustees will rank three proposed sites for a bus transfer center at its Feb. 23 meeting.

Engineers outlined the pros and cons of three proposed sites for a bus transfer center in downtown Bloomington on Wednesday.The Connect Transit Board of Trustees held a special meeting to review the sites which the agency identified in January following a study done by the Bloomington-based Farnsworth Group.

Connect Transit plans to build the $18 million center site to serve 10 daily bus routes and 1,800 daily boardings.

Chad Frankenberger, senior project manager for Farnsworth Group, called the former Pantagraph building a “wonderfully iconic building,” noting it’s the largest property of the three proposed sites, covering two city blocks.

“It’s probably a little underutilized, just with the amount of building there as well as the site itself,” said Frankenberger, adding the size of the property gives it potential for multiple uses.

Frankenberger said the cost to buy the property is unknown and it’s possible nearby buildings would need to be demolished, adding unknown costs. Jefferson Street  also would need to be closed to accommodate a transfer center there, he said.

The nearby Market Street garage is conveniently located and publicly owned, said Frankenberger, noting it is a smaller site at 1.5 blocks and is on sloped ground.

The garage would likely need major renovations, or would have to be demolished, he said, adding the facility sits between two one-way streets to the east and west that could make it difficult for traffic flow.

“(That) could become problematic with circulation,” he said.

The third site, the former CII East building on South East Street, is closest to the current bus transfer center on Front Street and near many downtown amenities, Frankenberger said. He noted it’s the smallest of the three properties with limited room to expand.

“(That) may require (building) up to help accommodate program square footage,” he said, and the property also is privately-owned, another potential drawback.

Ben Hart, president and CEO of Heritage Operations Group that operates senior care facilities across Illinois, told the board during a public comment period the Market Street garage provides vital parking that his staff of 141 downtown employees uses daily.

“If those parking spaces were to be eliminated, there is simply not enough available parking in the vicinity to accommodate our workforce,” Hart said. “We would be faced with the very real possibility of having to relocate our corporate headquarters.”

Connect Transit board chair Ryan Whitehouse said transit interim general manager Mark Peterson will be in touch to discuss Heritage’s concerns.

Board vice-chair Julie Hile said survey respondents also have raised parking as a concern. She asked whether a larger site would make it easier to make additional parking available.

“Each site is a little bit different, but I think each site certainly would offer a little bit of that,” Frankenberger said. “Some maybe more than others.”

Connect Transit is taking public feedback on the three proposed sites over the next two weeks.

The transit board plans to discuss and rank the proposed sites at its Feb. 23 meeting.

Connect Transit hopes to break ground on the project this spring and have the project completed by the end of 2022.

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