AATA breaks ground on $8.1M new and improved Blake Transit Center in downtown Ann Arbor
The Ann Arbor Transportation Authority ceremonially broke ground Monday on what it says will be one of the state's most eco-friendly public transportation facilities when completed.
The $8.1 million project calls for demolishing the one-story Blake Transit Center at 331 S. Fourth Ave. downtown and constructing a new two-story transit center in its place.
AATA officials gathered at the site along with local, state and federal officials to mark the start of construction. The new and improved transit center is slated for completion by fall 2013.
Courtesy of AATA
The new 12,019-square-foot building will include space for a main customer service lobby, restrooms, offices for AATA and getDowntown staff, conference rooms, a staff break room, and a basement for storage and mechanical equipment.
A high canopy of steel and tinted glass will run along the northern side of the building. Bicycle parking and benches will be included on site, and bus stops along Fourth Avenue will be redesigned.
The new transit center will take shape at the southeast corner of the site, a shift away from the northwest corner, with more of a connection to Fifth Avenue.
AATA officials said construction will be coordinated with the city, the Downtown Development Authority and the Ann Arbor District Library to minimize disruption to the area.
AATA Board Chairman Charles Griffith said the architectural and engineering designs ensure the new downtown transit center, which replaces a facility built in the 1980s, will receive LEED Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council for environmental excellence.
The new facility's design also complies with guidelines required under the Americans with Disabilities Act, AATA officials noted.
The AATA's decision to go ahead with the project comes less than two weeks after the Ann Arbor City Council effectively killed the AATA's plans to create a new countywide transit authority.
The council voted 10-0 on Nov. 8 to opt out of the countywide authority, which would have replaced the AATA, following the lead of most of the municipalities in the county. The council directed the AATA instead to focus on improving services in the county's urban core.
Mayor John Hieftje released a statement on Monday indicating his support for going forward with rebuilding the Blake Transit Center.
"This project signals the beginning of an exciting new chapter in the AATA's history of success and would not be possible without the strong leadership and vision of the entire AATA team," he said.
AATA officials said the $8.1 million cost estimate exceeds original estimates due to additional needs identified through community input and environmental analysis, as well as the costs of the city's approval process. They noted more than $7 million of the total costs are funded through state and federal grants that were earmarked for the creation of a new transit center.
AATA officials argue a new Blake Transit Center is necessary to meet growing passenger demands based on data that shows ridership has increased more than 60 percent since 1987, with more than 5,000 riders daily and 1.5 million riders annually arriving and departing through the center. Bus traffic also has increased with an hourly average of about 40 buses accessing the facility.
More details are available at BlakeTransitCenter.com.
Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for AnnArbor.com. Reach him at email@example.com or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to AnnArbor.com's email newsletters.