The Gazette covers City Hall, now a flood-damaged icon on May's Island in the Cedar River

Moving bus depot to a new Intermodal facility on the edge of downtown closes in on reality

In City Hall, Pat Shey, Paul Pate on April 20, 2008 at 3:32 pm

Earlier this month, the City Council said it was all-but sure it had found the spot among 26 possibilities and four favorites to build a new bus depot called the Intermodal Transit Facility.

The council now has put the matter on its Wednesday agenda so it can vote on the site, in the 900 block of Third Street SE. The site is across the street from the empty Osada apartment building, which a developer is readying to convert to the Bottleworks condominiums.

The proposed site for the new Intermodal is now home to a couple of warehouses and Loftus Distributing. The owner of the property, which is assessed at $472,205, has been called a willing seller. The cost to demolish what is on the property is estimated at $400,000.

Sam Shea, the city’s long-term planning coordinator, reports that he ran the proposed site for the Intermodal by the Corridor Metropolitan Planning Organization last week and found no objection there.

He notes, too, that the city has $11 million in federal funds for the project, which has been put off and the location of it moved for now the third time.

Initially, the Intermodal was slated to be built across from the U.S. Cellular Center, which is some distance from the city’s Ground Transportation Center bus depot, which sits in the 400 block of First Street SE. Back then, a big part of the Intermodal was a parking garage, and the facility also was to provide space for an adult day care, the Witwer Senior Center and a few transit assets – the Neighborhood Transit Service, LIFTs buses and the occasional intercity bus.

However, during the mayoral term of Paul Pate, the decision was made to move the Intermodal to the 600 block of Second Street SE. The Witwer Senior Center no longer was part of the idea, but most of the rest of the original parts, including the parking ramp, were.

The city has design drawings of the Second Street SE site as pretty as the ones for the site across from the U.S. Cellular Center.

The building nearly got built on Second Street SE.

However, council member Pat Shey spoke up and said it didn’t make any sense to build a new transit facility just two or so blocks from the Ground Transportation Center bus depot. As importantly, Shey argued that the GTC depot worked to turn First Street SE into a place where pedestrians were forced to dodge city buses while the city wanted the street along the Cedar River to be a pedestrian-friendly place.

A Minnesota consultant subsequently weighed in, saying the existing GTC depot was a danger to pedestrians and that the new Intermodal, as then proposed, would be obsolete as a transit facility and parking ramp the day it opened.

City staffer Shea now says City Hall has plenty of work to do to once again get the Federal Transit Administration on board with moving the Intermodal to yet a new spot. Additionally, the current GTC bus depot has federal-funding strings attached to it that need to be sorted out.

The thought is the GTC depot can be renovated into commercial or office space or some other use.

As for the new proposed spot for the Intermodal, in the 900 block of Third Street SE, the idea is that a bus depot is really a spot where riders transfer from one bus to another. Hence, it does not need to be in the heart of downtown.

Construction of the Intermodal, Shea has said, is still a few years away.



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