Depot Delays

Design of the new Greyhound terminal keeps getting pushed back due to funding questions

Since 2004, the city of Tucson has taken a meandering route toward the construction of a new downtown Greyhound bus terminal. The process is presently delayed, but City Hall staffers insist that the delay is merely a temporary speed bump.

"We're on hold, and I don't know why," admits architect Corky Poster, whose firm was hired to prepare plans for the new bus station. To be located at Sixth and Toole avenues, the facility will be adjacent to the Union Pacific railroad tracks which carry dozens of freight trains every day.

"At the end of the schematic design process," Poster says, "we were put on hold for two to three months. Then about three weeks ago, we were sent a notice by the city to proceed, but on Oct. 29, we were told to stop again for two weeks."

"We're about one-half through the design-development phase now," Poster says about the structure, which is to have 9,000 square feet on the ground floor for the bus station. In addition, there will be eight bus bays and lots of landscaping around the building.

Above the bus station, 55,000 square feet of office space will be constructed on three floors. This space will serve as the future home for the Tucson Department of Transportation (TDOT).

The city's Capital Improvement Program projects the cost of the new facility at $20 million, while Assistant City Manager Karen Masbruch pegs the number at $2 million less. According to the CIP, these funds are to be generated by certificates of participation--frequently used, non-voter-approved loan notes paid off through governmental revenues.

Covering the cost of the building is what has caused the most recent delay, Masbruch explains. However, she emphasizes that the hold on architectural work will only last until the second week of November.

"We're looking at our funding options," Masbruch says, "including our current leases for TDOT and Federal Transit Authority money."

The city's Transportation Department has long rented space from Pima County in the Development Services building they share at Stone Avenue and Alameda Street. Vacating those offices would enable the city to transfer approximately $310,000 to annual debt service toward repaying a loan to build the new bus station.

More than three years ago, it was the city's stated goal that the Greyhound station would only be in a temporary location for two years. In communications with the City Council, then-City Manager James Keene emphasized the short-term move would be "of no more than 24 months."

While that target date may have been simple, determining the location of the temporary facility was far more complex.

To accommodate the construction of a new underpass on Fourth Avenue, the nearby Greyhound bus station had to be demolished. In order to develop a multi-modal center around downtown's Historic Train Depot, the adopted plan for the area had long called for a new bus station to be placed next door, complementing the adjacent Ronstadt Transit Center as well as a proposed streetcar line.

But some groups wanted the bus station moved closer to Interstate 10 (See "Leave the Driving to Us," Jan. 22, 2004). After a bitter battle during which several different sites were considered, the City Council decided to stick with the original recommendation on Toole Avenue.

Thus, when Greyhound moved into modular buildings near I-10 just west of Congress Street in February 2006, the two-year relocation clock started ticking. But given the current delays in preparing plans for the new bus station, that goal is obviously not going to be met.

Because of the missed deadline, in May of this year, the $7,210 monthly lease between the city and Greyhound was extended. It now reads that the temporary location will be used "to until March 31, 2009, or upon completion of the new Greyhound terminal."

That extension will provide much-needed breathing room to complete the new project. In the meantime, the bus company will remain in its spacious temporary home, which provides a snack bar and a clean waiting room to passengers who can board a number of buses, including six daily departures for Los Angeles and four headed to El Paso.

One possible disadvantage of the move to a permanent home, though, will be less on-site parking. Greyhound's temporary location has nine designated parking spaces for customers and plenty more in surface lots surrounding the bus station. The new facility will offer only three customer spaces, a pickup/drop-off area and little nearby surface parking.

That change doesn't concern Greyhound corporate spokeswoman Kim Plaskett. She says the company's experience is that many of their customers are either dropped off or picked up, so on-site parking is not a major issue at multi-modal centers.

For his part, Poster points out: "The almost 200 TDOT employees can use the nearby garage on Pennington Street."

But when those employees and Greyhound buses will actually roll into the new facility remains unknown.

In February, TDOT staff members predicted the new bus station would be in operation by 2009. Despite the two delays in working on architectural plans, Masbruch believes that schedule remains possible to meet.

"That's still our goal," she says. "I think the construction should take between 12 and 18 months, so 2009 is still a realistic goal."

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