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Connect Transit Names 3 Finalists For Location Of Downtown Transfer Center

Map of new transit location
Dana Vollmer
/
WGLT
Connect Transit has named three potential locations for the new downtown Bloomington transfer center. Among them is the old Pantagraph building on Washington Street. Officials presented this mock-up at a press conference Wednesday.

Connect Transit has unveiled three potential locations for the new downtown Bloomington transfer center.

Up for consideration are the former Pantagraph building at 301 W. Washington St., the old Market Street parking deck at 202 W. Market St., and the former CII East property at 102 S. East St.

These sites were selected by Bloomington-based Farnsworth Group, an architecture and engineering firm commissioned to scout out locations.

Connect Transit Board Chairman Ryan Whitehouse said trustees will take the next month to weigh the options.

“All three sites have been judged by the engineers with the Farnsworth Group as being excellent potential candidates for the transit facility,” Whitehouse said. “However, none of these three sites are perfect. Each presents its own set of challenges and opportunities.”

Whitehouse said any of the three would be an upgrade from the current location on Front Street, in front of the McLean County Law and Justice Center.

“The current Bloomington transfer center, which serves over 2,000 transit riders every day, is clearly lacking in many respects,” Whitehouse said. “It is our goal to create a new transfer center that offers Connect Transit passengers a clean, modern, comfortable, and safe environment in which to access our fixed route system, that protects them from the extreme elements of central Illinois weather.”

Whitehouse said the board plans to hold a special meeting on Feb. 10 to discuss the sites. A decision will come at the Feb. 23 regular meeting, he said, after gathering input from the City of Bloomington and community stakeholders.

Then, the process begins to acquire the site. Whitehouse said that can be lengthy and complicated. But Connect Transit is hoping for a spring groundbreaking, with completion by the end of 2022.

The $18 million project has been in the works for years. The City of Bloomington and Connect Transit are leveraging federal funding and state grants to pay for the project, at no extra cost to local taxpayers.

Patrick Hoban, president and CEO of the Bloomington-Normal Economic Development Council, said that bolsters the community’s return on investment.

Construction of the transit center is expected to create 190 direct jobs, Hoban said. Those are the people doing the construction. There also are indirect and induced jobs for those supplying the construction workers. That will create another 26 positions.

All of those jobs have economic outputs, Hoban said. Combined, they’re expected to generate more than $29.5 million—all without the city spending a cent.

“I would say that’s a really good return on investment for $18 million, if that was coming from local (sources). But because this is not local money, we’ve actually already paid these dollars. We’re bringing this back—from the state and from the feds—back home.”

Hoban said there’s another benefit: improving the aesthetics of downtown.

“In my mind, beauty is a right. All three of these sites are on a corridor. Each one of them has close to 10,000 cars driving right by it. So that’s something that we really can’t measure, but it’s definitely going to have an impact. To have this going into your downtown is a wonderful way to kick start some revitalization.”

Bloomington Mayor Tari Renner called the project a win-win. He said he’ll do everything in his power to bring it to fruition before leaving office in April.

“This is something that’s not just going to benefit the people who ride the Connect Transit system, help move us to a new phase of being a multi-modal city for the 21st century, but it’s also (a) very important anchor to our downtown,” Renner said.

The new center will serve 10 bus routes. Grant funding comes from the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Transit Administration and Illinois Department of Transportation.

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Dana Vollmer is a reporter with WGLT. Dana previously covered the state Capitol for NPR Illinois and Peoria for WCBU.