W.Va. transit center nets $4.5 for new operations center

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — The Eastern Panhandle Transit Authority's project to build a new transit operations center recently was awarded $4.5 million in federal funding, U.S. Sens. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., and Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said Monday.

The funding will allow the transit authority to acquire land for the new operations center and proceed with design work and site preparation for the facility, authority Director Doug Pixler and Deputy Director Elaine Bartoldson said.

The agency hopes to break ground for the new facility in 2020, Pixler said.

"We still have a long way to go," he said.

A preferred site for the new operations center is being considered in the city of Martinsburg, and is expected to include facilities for a transfer center for passengers, bus storage, and maintenance and administrative offices.

The EPTA had applied for $14 million, but Pixler and Bartoldson said they still are excited by the funding allocation.

"This is a good start," Bartoldson said.

Pixler said he was "ecstatic" to learn of the funding award.

The EPTA's current base of operations is at 446 Novak Drive, about 3 1/2 miles south of Martinsburg.

"We've outgrown it," Bartoldson said.

The transit authority's current transfer center at the Martinsburg train station off East Martin Street is problematic for buses due to limited space to load and unload, a lack of layover area and difficult turning space.

Bartoldson noted that separate studies ultimately led to the recommendation that all of the EPTA's facilities be consolidated into one location, but not before the transit authority embarked upon a search for a new transfer-center site.

That search led to the identification of undeveloped property owned by Paramount Development Corp. off Mall Drive as a preferred location for a transfer center, but Pixler told transit authority board members in October 2016 that a restrictive clause in property-deed documents for the Mall Drive site prohibited bus depots.

Launched in 1976, the transit system saw ridership increase systemwide by about 9 percent last year to more than 210,000, Pixler told Berkeley County (W.Va.) Council members in January.

In response to continued growth, the transit authority is launching new routes and schedules, including bus service to the Inwood, W.Va. area, and the new Procter & Gamble plant in the Tabler Station Business Park south of Martinsburg. The new routes and schedules will be launched April 16.

Pixler and Bartoldson credited Capito and Manchin, among other officials, for recognizing the growth-related challenges that the EPTA faces.

“The Eastern Panhandle Transit Authority provides a crucial service throughout the region, and expanding their infrastructure will create jobs and drive economic growth that will support Martinsburg and the entire region,” Manchin said in a joint announcement with Capito.

“By helping to support the construction of a new transit-operations center, these resources will help benefit businesses and individuals in the Eastern Panhandle and improve the quality of life for those who call Martinsburg and surrounding areas home," Capito said.

By:  Matthew Umstead
Source: Herald-Mail