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Transportation plan could get big boost from federal funds

An expected $1 million federal appropriation will get the city’s”foot in the door” as it aims to build a new intermodal facility tohouse a variety of transportation and other activities, officialssaid.

An expected $1 million federal appropriation will get the city’s”foot in the door” as it aims to build a new intermodal facility tohouse a variety of transportation and other activities, officialssaid.

A federal transportation bill, including $1 million earmarkedfor the Brookhaven project, was awaiting President Bill Clinton’ssignature, which was expected this week. The city would then haveto apply for the funds through the Federal Transit Authority,according to Sen. Thad Cochran’s office.

The money, said Ward 4 Alderman John Roberts, would be forengineering and architect fees, building restoration, sitepreparation and land acquisition, although he did not expect muchadditional land to be needed. The city is looking at the areaaround the old smoke stack on North Railroad Avenue.

Architect Michael Barranco said he is in the process ofdeveloping of a master plan for the facility. Although early in theprocess, he and Roberts are excited about the possibilities.

“We’re just in the ground stages of it,” Barranco said. “It’sgoing to be phenomenal if this thing pulls off.”

Barranco estimated the master plan would be ready in severalweeks. A scale model of the proposed facility is also planned.

Roberts touted a variety of possible benefits from theproject.

“The main thing is it’ll revitalize that area of town,” Robertssaid.

Brookhaven officials have looked at a Meridian facility in aneffort to get ideas for the local center. Bus, train and vehicleparking are targeted to be addressed with the new center.

“What we’re trying to do basically is put all that in onefacility,” Roberts said.

Also, officials are considering the possibility of lighting thesmoke stack to highlight it, having retail shops in the facilityand a restaurant. A train museum in the old water plant building isanother possibility, Barranco said.

“We don’t know costs or time frame right now,” Barranco said.”There’s a lot left to be done.”

Roberts said the initial funds will help get the projectstarted. With the variety of services housed in the facility, heindicated there are many avenues in which to pursue grants andother funding to keep local costs to a minimum.

One concern Roberts mentioned was the Amtrak train blockingdowntown intersections. By moving the train stop north, he hoped toaddress that problem.

A new facility would also provide passengers and visitors withrestrooms and other services while they wait, Barranco added.Currently, there is only a small enclosed bench and no nearbyrestrooms for Amtrak passengers.

“It would just make it a nicer place,” Barranco said about trainfacilities.

Another train-related possibility, Roberts mentioned, wasservice to Natchez. With it, he said Brookhaven could capitalize onthat city’s pilgrimage.

“The more you go at it, the more possibilities there are outthere for it,” Roberts said about the intermodal facility.

One possibility has fallen through, or at least will have to bemodified.

Officials had hoped to have a trolley system for transportingstate fine arts school students from the Whitworth campus toBrookhaven High School. However, state law says students must betransported in buses.

While student bus transportation plans were uncertain, a bus ortrolley system for moving citizens around town remains apossibility. On a related note, Roberts said Meridian’s having aGreyhound bus terminal at its facility has been a positive, and hehoped relocating Greyhound’s terminal to the intermodal facilitywould have a similar effect here.

Barranco said there is the potential for a parking garage at thefacility as well. However, he said Brookhaven has a delicate scale,and he did not want a garage to be too big and disrupt aestheticaspects of the city landscape.

“I don’t want it to intrude on the scale of Brookhaven,”Barranco said.