After seven years of consecutive ridership growth, the time has come. With over half of our bus fleet comprised of hybrid buses, the time has come. As we continue to hire a growing workforce across departments, the time has come.
In just a few weeks, construction begins for MTD’s Maintenance Facility in Urbana. MTD’s first-ever built facility, located at 801 East University Ave, is getting torn down. The facility was built in 1974 and was expanded in 1979. For decades, the building housed MTD’s administration, operations, and maintenance departments. Many memories and accomplishments were made within those walls, but they’re beyond showing their age.
Gradual expansion and purchasing of the neighboring building at 803 East University began in 1991 and continued through the 1990s. In 2003, MTD’s Administration and Operations moved out of the original 801 building and into a larger facility located nearby at 1101 East University Avenue.
The demolition of 801 East University, and the subsequent expansion of the current Maintenance Facility at 803, answers several District needs. The project went out to bid in November 2014 and is estimated it will take 15 months to complete.
The first need the project answers is vehicle storage. MTD is at 100% storage capacity. Our fleet of 102 buses and 12 large passenger vans can barely fit inside our facilities. A storage challenge arose when we began purchasing hybrid buses. Because of the battery pack on the roof of the coach, the hybrid buses are taller than their diesel counterparts. This limits their storage to our newer Maintenance Facility only. The old storage at 801 cannot fit the hybrid buses. Indoor storage is critical to maintaining the fleet in good repair and operational condition, particularly during winter.
Over the years, MTD has grown our hybrid fleet to make up 54% of our fixed-route vehicles. And as we look to retire 33 buses from 2003, now over a decade old, their replacements will be hybrid buses. The expansion will add 67,600 gross square feet of bus storage that will be tall enough to accommodate the fuel saving hybrid bus battery pack.
The second need is additional office and training space. MTD instructors train and certify all employees who operate a vehicle in house. Our Safety and Training Director is responsible for new employee and review training for bus operators, technicians, service workers, and staff. A team of classroom, road, and line instructors support his work. Training simulators are also a regular part of the program, and they too require space and manpower.
The Maintenance Facility Upgrade will add 11,600 gross square feet to the mezzanine (second floor) of Maintenance. This will allow MTD’s Safety and Training activities to be moved from our Operations and Administration Building. This opens their former space for some much needed offices and conference rooms. (We’re hiring all over the place!)
There are three more benefits of the upgrade. The first is a protected interior wash and dry space for our vehicles. Currently, vehicles exiting the wash bay are driven outside and then back into storage (if it’s available). During the winter months, this requires a tremendous amount of salt to combat ice buildup from water runoff. The upgrade will keep vehicles indoors from start to finish. A second benefit is new and improved indoor battery storage. This will be used for both old and new batteries, both of which contain volatile materials. Finally, the expanded facility will allow us to keep all vehicles in the present and future connected to the Stinger System – a system that yields time and environmental savings.
The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) awarded $6 million to MTD for this project. The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) awarded another $2.35 million. These grant awards bring state and federal dollars back to our area!
The FTA funds come from the Urbanized Area Formula Program, which is authorized under the provisions set forth in the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21). Under this program, the transportation secretary may make grants to assist states and local governmental authorities in financing capital and planning projects, job access and reverse commute projects, associated transit improvements, and certain operating costs.
These funds constitute a core investment in the enhancement and revitalization of public transportation systems in the nation’s urbanized areas, which depend on public transportation to improve mobility and reduce congestion.
The funds used for the 803 expansion are a portion of our appropriations from FY2012. MAP-21 expires May 31, 2015. If Congress does not act to restore national transit infrastructure funding, projects like these will not be possible. Stay tuned as we share information on how YOU can Stand Up for Transportation on a national advocacy day set for April 9.
Updates to Come
Demolition and construction are scheduled to begin in the first full week of April. Check back here as well as our social media pages for construction updates, pictures, and more!