BROOKINGS – Brookings Area Transit Authority and Brookings School District are moving forward on their plan to build and share a joint housing and maintenance facility for their buses. Sioux Falls architecture firm TSP and consulting firm RPL Transit Consulting are working on the project with BATA and the school district.
Both the school district administration and BATA officials have expressed their needs and concerns for a new center for their buses. Last year, the district bought land near the softball fields on 22nd Avenue South after having agreed to pursue a joint facility with BATA.
BATA Executive Director Brenda Schweitzer said that she “secured a planning grant through the South Dakota Department of Transportation to see what we could learn and put together for a joint facility. (The school district) needed a bus facility, we needed one for a long time. Brookings has a great history of collaboration and doing joint projects in an effort to save money and be resourceful.”
Schweitzer said this joint project simply made “good sense” and offered solutions that benefitted both entities in regard to space, location, money and efficiency on maintenance.
Consultants Rich Leners from RPL and Sean Ervin from TSP presented preliminary building concepts and estimated costs for the project at a meeting last month. A preliminary estimated cost is $8.6 million.
An important point for this partnership between the school district and BATA is that BATA has access to federal grants from the Federal Transit Authority. According to Leners, this project requires a 20% local match to the grants, which would, if approved, cover the remaining 80% of the project’s estimated cost.
Leners said even though grant dollars are scarce, this project provides a unique opportunity to receive funding because it will be the only joint bus facility between the city and the school district.
Leners gave an overview of each of the current bus facilities and their downfalls. He said both BATA’s and the school district’s current facilities are significantly undersized, offer difficult maneuverability for the buses and staff parking, and offer very little space for proper maintenance. He also showed an aerial photo of the school district’s bus station by the high school. None of the buses can fully fit underneath the housing structure, exposing the back of the buses to the outside.
The current concept for the facility offers housing for more than 50 buses and has a designated area for expansion should the school district and BATA expand their fleet. It is designed to have only left-hand turns for ease of maneuverability of the buses and lessens the chances of there being any accidents.
Leners said combining the facility saves taxpayers a minimum of 15-20% on the cost.
Still under discussion is whether the school district and BATA would share a maintenance staff to work on both fleets of busses.
Another key point that was brought up in the presentation was that creating a fully upgraded and safe new facility may help with hiring and retention rates for bus drivers. The Brookings School District is currently facing a significant shortage of bus drivers and has hired other busing companies to make up for the shortage.
Contact Matthew Rhodes at [email protected]