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Connect Transit Chooses Former Pantagraph Site For Bus Center

Exterior of the Pantagraph building
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The former Pantagraph building at 301 W. Washington St., Bloomington.

The Connect Transit board has approved the former Pantagraph building in downtown Bloomington as the preferred location for a new $18-20 million bus transfer center.

Trustees met Tuesday to consider the historic newspaper structure, the city-owned Market Street Parking Deck, and the CII East Building as options.

Trustees expressed concerns about the small size of the CII East building. They agreed with downtown  business owner comments that the Market Street Parking Deck would cause an unacceptable loss of parking for downtown businesses. The parking deck also drew reservations from board members because the site is not level, and there is no room for possible expansion unless Connect Transit were to build up at a higher cost.

Advantages of The Pantagraph building, trustees said, include: reuse of a historic structure, room to expand, the desirability of development west of Main Street, proximity to Grossinger Motors Arena, a location on a major thoroughfare, and potential partnerships with retailers and restauranteurs that could move into the building.

Trustee Julie Hile said she does have a question about how to handle a large amount of pedestrian traffic crossing a major street at Madison. Interim General Manager Mark Peterson said pedestrian traffic, residential neighborhood noise concerns, as well as bus turning management can be addressed during the design phase of the facility that would largely be funded with federal grant money.

Ex-officio board member and Assistant Bloomington City Manager Billy Tys said he appreciated the process the board took to arrive at the choice.

“You made an extra effort to involve the public and to seek input from municipal government. I’m excited about this project happening. It’s a big deal,” said Tyus.

“It’s nice to see this project move forward and I do appreciate everyone’s thoughtfulness in the process,” echoed Normal City Manager and ex-officio trustee Pam Reece.

Peterson said Connect Transit staff will move forward to site acquisition.

He noted it will be complex because Connect Transit must fulfill both state and federal procurement rules he termed "proscriptive." Peterson also said Connect Transit has other options if the site cannot be acquired.

“What a rich process this has been. So many have responded to the survey. I think going forward we can be proud of doing something that has our community behind us,” said trustee Judy Buchanan.

Trustees also approved the purchase of four electric buses and charging infrastructure. That purchase process began in the fall of 2019 with a five-year contract with Proterra. The price for the first four busses and charging mechanisms is $4,390,913. Connect Transit will utilize state transportation department debt service funds for 65% of the purchase and a $1.2 million no emissions grant.

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