$5M grant in place for new Eau Claire transit transfer center

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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- Christmas came to the City of Eau Claire on Wednesday, in the form of a $5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

It will, in part, go to replace the current transit transfer station that's been in place along Farwell St. between Main and Gray streets since 1985.

"We've known that this has been a temporary facility and it serves its purpose,” Tom Wagener, transit manager for the City of Eau Claire, said to WEAU 13 News on Wednesday. “We've got many years out of it as we can but we've known we've needed to do something different."

Plans call for a multi-level, mixed-use structure to be built above where Eau Claire Transit buses will pull in and transfer passengers. Wagener said apartments have been discussed as being part of the final project.

Along with the grant money, Eau Claire would be asked to chip in $1.25 million in matching funds and the rest of the project cost would come from the private developer, Gorman & Co. The total price tag is currently set at $21.4 million – meaning the $5 million grant is a much-needed gift.

The grant would also go toward adding four new buses to the Eau Claire Transit fleet.

The Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery – or TIGER – grant was first announced through a release sent out Wednesday by Rep. Ron Kind’s office, but Wagener said these grants are normally announced through the Department of Transportation. The transit manager said he learned the grant was green-lit through a report posted on WEAU.com.

"Our administrative associate was the one that found it online. I was in training and she came and got me in the training because she knew I'd want to hear this right away,” he said. “So we're all in shock. There's a team of us that were involved in submitting the grants and we're just so happy to hear some news, because we've been waiting for a while."

During an interview with WEAU 13 News on Wednesday, Kind said he’s been a proponent of TIGER grants across his 3rd Congressional District.

“They are competitive grants. There’s not a lot of money, so there’s not a lot of awards going out,” he said. “We do letters of support and do follow-up with them as well to make sure that people back home get their fair share. So, this is a good win and it’s going to be important for the overall mass transit strategy for the Chippewa Valley area.”

Wagener said the grant was drawn up in a matter of weeks last autumn and was approved by the Eau Claire Coty Council on Oct. 10th.

"That's a very short time frame,” he said. “So, again, a team of us just worked together and it was definitely a group effort from all different departments in the city."

Kind said the TIGER grant speaks of the larger demand of infrastructure needs for Wisconsin and the rest of the country.

"That's why I'm hopeful that later this year Congress, by working with the president, will get their act together and come forward with a major infrastructure reinvestment bill for all of Americans, so we can start rebuilding America and the infrastructure we need that will support the economic growth and the good paying jobs that will come from it.”

Right now, Wagener is simply glad the needs of Eau Claire commuters are taking off.

"We're looking for something permanent and this will just be a real plus to our riders and those that are wanting to use the service," he said.

Wagener said once the deal is finalized with the Department of Transportation, the next step will involve getting a detailed design locked down. He said the hope is to break ground for the new transit transfer center downtown sometime in the spring of 2019.

Rep. Ron Kind announced that the city of Eau Claire received a $5 million grant for a new transit transfer center.

He made the announcement in a press release Wednesday.

Kind says the grant is part of the Department of Transportation’s Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grant.

The city is expected to also get four new buses with the grant.

“Our booming downtown and growing city looks forward to the addition of a new transit transfer center in downtown,” said Dale Peters, Eau Claire City Manager. The city is very excited to receive this grant, which will allow us to improve the public transportation system for those who rely on the service in Eau Claire."

There's no word yet on the timing for when the new center will be built.

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