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Our View: All we need is a $12 million TIGER

Published: Thursday, April 24, 2014 11:31 p.m. CDT • Updated: Monday, April 28, 2014 9:08 a.m. CDT

Hello, U.S. Department of Transportation.

We know that we don’t write you often –OK, so maybe this is the first time – but we could use some help in providing public transportation to people here in DeKalb County.

The Voluntary Action Center has been providing transit service almost since it formed in 1974. The federal government has helped out before with a grant that led to the construction, in 1986, of a 13,000-square-foot bus facility at Bethany and Peace roads.

Now we need your help again. The transit service has seen double-digit percentage increases in ridership in each of the past five years. Last year, there were more than 220,000 rides on TransVAC buses on three bus lines that serve DeKalb, Sycamore and to shuttle students to Kishwaukee College in Malta.

There’s also a large contingent of local people who drive their own vehicles to the Metra station in Elburn, and transit officials think that many of them would prefer a park-and-ride option from a new bus station.

There are plans to build a new, 80,000-square-foot transportation hub. The site is all picked out. It’s a 14-acre tract on Barber Greene Road, a location roughly between DeKalb and Sycamore between the TAILS building and the DeKalb County Highway Department building. It could open as soon as late 2015 or 2016.

Having a larger transit facility would make way for more buses and equipment, allowing TransVAC to make more service available.  

The project will cost about $17 million, but all we’re asking for is a Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery, or TIGER grant of, say, $12 million.

Now, we know you probably will get billions of dollars in requests this month, and only have about $600 million to spend. But this project has real value in helping people in both urban and rural settings connect with both bus and rail transit. How’s that for versatility?

Not only will it allow people greater access to bus transit and “dial-a-ride” paratransit services, it also can help connect more of our residents to commuter rail service without having to drive 19 miles to Elburn. The building would include a parking lot with about 100 spaces where commuters could park their cars and ride a bus to the station.

There’s local support, too. DeKalb County is donating the site, and there’s about $5 million in grant money that the county and city of DeKalb are committing to the project.

We try not to hit up the federal government too often for our bus service needs, but the numbers show that the need is growing and it’s been almost 30 years since the last time Uncle Sam chipped in.

Be looking for that application, would you? There’s a need, there’s local support, and this grant would go a long way to make our communities more livable.

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