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Transportation hub plans moving along

Plans for a proposed multimodal transportation facility aremoving ahead slowly as officials try to resolve several issuesinvolving the federally funded project, city officials said thisweek.

Mayor Bob Massengill met with architect Michael Barranco Tuesdayand visited the facility’s proposed site on North Railroad Avenue.They discussed issues that the architect and engineers are pursuingand what the city can to do help move the project forward.

“It was a good meeting,” Barranco said.

Using federal funds, city officials have approved a scaled-back$1.9 million version of the facility. The federal money is beingchanneled through the Mississippi Department of Transportation.

“We’ve been communicating with MDOT on how to move forward,”Barranco said.

The project has been allocated $4 million, but the city mustmatch federal funds with 20 percent local money. The city’s 20percent match for the first phase is expected to come from thevalue of the land and buildings donated for the project.

“We want to be careful to spend the earmark wisely,” Barrancosaid.

One issue being discussed with MDOT is financial contributionsto the project by facility tenants.

Barranco has been talking with railroad officials on thatpossibility. In addition to train services, officials are alsoworking toward having the facility house bus services and providemeeting spaces.

“With these earmarks come stipulations,” Barranco said. “If someof these for-profit entities come in, then MDOT expects them tocontribute.”

Barranco said the goal remains to be able to seek bids on theproject this fall. He said the focus now is on preserving thebuildings for the facility.

“We’re trying to plan for the exterior envelope restoration….,” Barranco said. “We’ll try to do as much of the interior asthe money will allow.”

Massengill, though, sounded unsure when the project would bemoving forward. He indicated the bid process may not be done untilearly 2005.

“I think we’re a while away from being able to bid anything onit,” Massengill said Tuesday while updating aldermen on the projectduring the city board meeting.

While saying some contingencies have been prepared, Barrancosaid the hope is to be able to open the facility after phase one.One item that was struck as too costly was a railroad spur to thefacility

“We will have a covered platform taking you out to the train,’Barranco said.

On the city side of planning, Barranco said cleaning of theproperty topped the list.

“That’s the biggest thing right now,” Barranco said.

While acknowledging the need for clean up, Massengill added thatanother issue in the project is relocating city street departmentoperations that are currently using the space. He said a decisionon that has not been made.

Massengill was supportive of the project, saying it would helpthe area. The various concerns, though, must be addressed as thefacility moves toward reality.

“It’s an area that can use some refurbishing, but a lot ofthings have to fall in place,” Massengill said.