Metro Transit buses

Madison Metro Transit System buses make their way up State Street. Metro is still planning for a $33.5 million satellite bus garage even though it has not identified a needed outside funding source. 

AMBER ARNOLD, STATE JOURNAL

Despite the lack of a critical outside funding source, Metro Transit is still planning for a desperately needed, $33.5 million satellite bus garage on the East Side.

The satellite garage is Metro’s top priority and continuing delays in building it are the main restraint on responding to requests for more bus service, adding bus rapid transit and relieving crowding on buses, Metro general manager Chuck Kamp said.

“We’re literally out of space,” he said.

The city had been pursuing a major federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant to cover half the cost of the facility, but the federal funding source is now uncertain under the Trump administration, Kamp said. “Only recently have transportation investments become political,” he said.

In 2015 and 2016, Metro was “very competitive” for a federal TIGER grant, but demand for funds far exceeded available money, Kamp said. The Trump administration has not asked for applications for the grant program this year, with uncertainty about its future, he said.

“We’re expecting more information in coming months, he said.

Meanwhile, Metro is exploring another new federal grant that would cover 80 percent of costs, but is uncertain if it would apply to the project, spokesman Mick Rusch said.

Metro is still continuing pre-design and engineering work to make the project “shovel ready” if a grant opportunity becomes available, Rusch said. That includes coordinating with city engineers and entering into an agreement with RNL Design of Colorado for architectural and pre-design work, he said.

The current, sprawling bus garage at 1101 E. Washington Ave. is more than 30 years old and was originally designed to house 160 buses, Rusch said. Currently, 200 40-foot buses and 17 paratransit vehicles are stored there.

Space in Middleton

Metro is also leasing space in Middleton for 15 buses during the school year due to the overcrowding at the main facility, Kamp said, adding that the leased space lacks fueling and maintenance capacities.

At present, Metro has no alternative financing plan for a proposed 165,000-square-foot-facility at Nakoosa Trail and Commercial Avenue, where the city is planing a new Fleet Services building with construction starting in 2019.

Construction on the bus satellite facility was supposed to start in 2016. It would provide storage for 70 40-foot standard buses or 36 60-foot articulated buses, plus 20 40-foot buses, and space for a bus wash, maintenance, repairs, parts, operations and administration offices on a 5.7-acre site.

The city’s nonbinding, five-year Capitol Improvement Plan shows a total $33.5 million — including $28.8 million in federal funding — for construction of the facility in 2018, 2019 and 2020.

City officials are working with the state’s congressional delegation to explore new funding opportunities, and Mayor Paul Soglin is working with lobbyists in Washington, D.C., on new grant opportunities, Rusch said.Soglin is now preparing a capital budget for 2018, and it’s unclear if construction will somehow start next year or be delayed again due to lack of outside funding, Kamp said.

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Dean Mosiman covers Madison city government for the Wisconsin State Journal.