Transport facility needed, but needs to be done soon

Published 5:00 am Monday, October 13, 2008

The city may be too far down the track to turn back now, but wewonder if we will ever reach the destination of a built andfunctioning multi-modal transportation facility.

Conceived under a previous administration, the facility is nowapproaching nine years in the making. And with construction stillnot started, city officials’ trip to transport hub reality couldeasily be a decade-long journey.

Throughout the development process, there have been new hoops -from finding a venture partner to resolving dock height disputes -to jump through seemingly at every juncture.

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City officials admit to frustration but still appear committedto creating a facility that will make the community proud. And thefacility’s North Railroad Avenue location will benefit fromaesthetic improvements the building renovations will bring.

However, the facility that may eventually be built will be muchdifferent than the one originally envisioned so many years ago.

That project considered a parking garage, restaurants and retailareas in addition to transportation services. There was even talkof a sports museum possibly locating in the complex.

To fund that vision, which had an estimated $5 million pricetag, city officials secured up to $4 million in federalappropriations. Local matching dollars – although their source wasnot identified at the time – would be needed to complete theproject.

Following a change in administrations, city officials opted toscale back the project and decided to release much of the acquiredappropriations back to the federal government — a fiscallyresponsible gesture by city leaders.

However, now, according to discussions at last week’s aldermenmeeting, city officials may have to find more money to cover highermaterial and other construction-related costs due to inflation. Anestimated $900,000 scaled-back facility in 2005 is now projected tocost around $1.35 million.

Another recent bump in the project is the announcement byrailroad officials to close the Josephine Street crossing if thefacility is built. With the city’s No. 2 fire station locatedwithin yards of the crossing, its closure would require fire trucksto make small adjustments for alternate routes to certain areaswest of the railroad tracks.

The added cost and crossing closure are important factors foraldermen to consider as they ponder future options before the nextboard meeting. Whether the decision is to stop now or to continuethe project to facility construction fruition, this project hasbeen in the planning stages long enough.

While railroad passenger service is not as popular as it oncewas in our history, the fact that Brookhaven can offer passengertrain service while many other communities cannot is a plus for ourarea. It is a convenience for residents as well as another reasonfor others to come visit our fair city.

Peering into the future, as the nation struggles with energyissues, the chance that rail service will again grow in popularityis a possibility that this community should not ignore. Having afacility that draws people to our downtown area would be a definiteeconomic boost for the area.