Officials say transit center may open by August

Published 12:00 am Monday, July 4, 2011

The transit center in Ironton may open in just a few weeks. The project is under construction downtown at the former home of Guy’s Floor Covering.

“The target date is Aug. 1,” said Ralph Kline, assistant director of the Ironton-Lawrence County Community Action Organization. “We definitely want to be open for the Rally (on the River).”

Construction on the project started about a year ago at the historic Berg and Brumberg buildings, which are along Vernon Street between Second and Third streets. The total cost on the historic restoration is $1.3 million, which was paid for with stimulus and Federal Transportation Administration monies.

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Once opened, the transit center will have a café area, public restrooms and an informational booth. It will serve as the headquarters for Lawrence County’s public transportation system.

The new center will provide a much-needed “head” for the county’s transportation system, said Mike Payne, director of public transportation in Lawrence County.

“The one thing that our transportation system has not had since day one is we haven’t had a head,” Payne said. “We’ve had a body. We’ve been out running but we haven’t had anywhere to bring the system together. That’s what this is going to be. It was part of the plan when we started the system up in 2008 and we were hoping for a transit center but when the funds came along that was just great.

“Now we are incorporating our roots to this is going to be like a primary hub of the operation,” Payne said.

Not only will the restored building provide a headquarters for transit employees, it will provide a better place to distribute information to the public.

“The general public has had a hard time trying to get information on when (buses) run and how they run. Yes, we have a schedule. Yes, we have a website but still there’s not that face-to-face and that’s what were going to get (here),” Payne said. “We have the opportunity to educate the public and to help them utilize the system.”

The café in the transit center will serve breakfast and lunch. Wi-Fi will be free to the public. Employees from Tri-State Industries will staff the café.

Besides being a place for people to get information on bus schedules and wait for their ride, the building will also be open during events like Gus Macker and Rally on the River.

“It’s also going to help support local events — the Gus Macker, Rally on the River, a lot the events that we have,” Payne said. “(There will be) public restrooms, a restaurant.”

The transit center will also be in a prime location to support the Depot Square project.

“We’re getting ready to put out bids for the Depot Square project which have the farmers’ market improvements and one of the issues, challenges of doing that is you’re out there with no public restrooms and that type of thing,” Kline said, adding that the public restrooms in the transit center will be a benefit for the future farmers market shelter that will be built nearby.

Loft apartments will eventually be constructed in the upstairs portion of the building. That portion of the reconstruction is still in the design stages.

The State of Ohio is considering a historic tax credit application for the Ironton Lofts project, Kline said.