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Neighbors welcome improved transit bus facility

Neighbors welcome improved transit bus facility

Sometimes, it's good to close the book on one tradition and open the book on another.  Particularly when we're saying goodbye to a tradition of excessive fumes and round-the-clock noise, and welcoming a new tradition of good environmental stewardship and being a better neighbor.

That's exactly what we're helping the families of Baltimore's Midway neighborhood do by supporting construction of a new bus maintenance facility to replace the Kirk Avenue depot.

Photo of Deputy Secretary Porcari in construction machine

Last week, residents living near the existing depot turned out to witness a new beginning. Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff and I --along with Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, U.S. Representative Elijah Cummings, and Maryland Transportation Secretary James Smith-- joined them to break ground on a new facility made possible by a $45 million commitment from the Obama Administration.

The fact that so many residents were present is a strong indication of what this project means for their community.

The existing bus maintenance facility was built in 1947. Since that time, neighbors have lived with the noise and emissions of dozens of idling buses day-in and day-out, making it difficult to enjoy their own backyards. Now, the state is investing $140 million to construct a new facility that brings those buses indoors and provides maintenance crews with a much better work environment.

Maryland Transit Administration buses provide more than 240,000 passenger trips each day in Baltimore. That’s a lot of rides to work and school, to the doctor and the grocery store, to home and family. Keeping those buses in good working order is essential to safety and reliability, and they need to be serviced and stored somewhere.

But here at DOT, we think transit should also be a good neighbor, and that’s what the MTA is hoping to accomplish.

Photo of Kirk Avenue groundbrekaing moment

The new facility will include two fully enclosed, energy-efficient buildings that allow for improved maintenance and storage of approximately 175 buses. For the first time, all the buses will be brought indoors for service, reducing noise, emissions, and other environmental impacts that have bothered the community for decades. The new facility will also make productive use of the vacant Reese Press lot across the street, solving another longstanding community problem. And the new facility will feature an outdoor garden for residents to use.

As MTA Administrator Robert Smith said, "We're going to be a better neighbor to the community we're in. We've been here for decades. It's time."

Area residents couldn't agree more. At the groundbreaking, Elaine Day, who has lived in the area for 36 years told the Baltimore Sun, "Change is a good thing. That building sitting there was blight for 20, 30 years."

Linda Johnson, a Midway resident since 1971 echoed Day's sentiments:  "This new project, it brings some new life."

For residents of the greater Baltimore region, the news is even better, with the project expected to create hundreds of new jobs and keep buses on the road and in service for 16 different routes.

Modernizing the Kirk Avenue bus facility will help ensure that the MTA has the right tools to maintain its growing fleet of energy-efficient hybrid buses and better serve the people of Baltimore. And it creates a model for good stewardship that transit agencies throughout the nation can follow.

Across the United States, we're investing in projects like this one to create jobs, improve our nation’s public transit infrastructure, and attract a new generation of riders. And when we can help a local community at the same time, that's transportation at its best.

John Porcari is Deputy U.S. Secretary of Transportation.

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