Transportation facility finally completed

Published 6:00 pm Wednesday, August 10, 2011

It has been a long-expected event, and itis almost here.

    More than 10 years after the project began, city officials willdedicate the multi-modal transportation facility on North RailroadAvenue Aug. 17 at 11:30 a.m. Mayor Les Bumgarner hopes for anappropriate conclusion to the ceremony: a train is scheduled tostop at noon that day.

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    “If the train is on time then it will arrive about when we aredone,” Bumgarner said. “I think that would be nice if ithappened.”

    The facility will replace and significantly upgrade the currentAmtrak train stop, which has limited space and no real protectionfrom the elements.

    The new facility is named the Godbold Transportation Center inhonor of Bill Godbold, the mayor under whose administration theproject began. Efforts to move forward with the facility continuedunder the Mayor Bob Massengill administration and construction isconcluding under Bumgarner.

    Bumgarner regrets that Godbold, who died in 2010, will not see thecompleted project, but members of the Godbold family will bepresent at next Wednesday’s dedication.

    Bumgarner has been pushing to complete the transportation facilitysince before he was mayor. When alderman at large, he joined themajority in 2003 in a 4-3 vote to move ahead with the project at atime when its future prospects were uncertain.

    “We had too much money invested by then,” Bumgarner said.

    Since 2003, the project has been mired in numerous delays, bothfinancial and administrative.

    In summer 2010, city officials thought completion was near, but adispute between Amtrak and the Mississippi Department ofTransportation broke out over the length of the boarding dock.

    Ultimately, the dock was lengthened from 80 to 400 feet. That meantadditional construction that pushed the project completion backuntil this month.

    And though the facility will open next week, administrativehaggling continues. City officials consider the terms of a 20-yearlease on the building proposed by Amtrak unacceptable.

    The topic was discussed at the Aug. 2 city board meeting, and thealdermen were in general agreement with Bumgarner concerning thelease’s undesirability.

    Aside from concerns about the financial amount of the lease, deemedinadequate, city officials have different notions than Amtrak aboutstaff.

    As Bumgarner understands it, under the terms of the proposed leaseAmtrak would commit to having someone at the facility 30 minutesbefore and after the scheduled arrival of each train. That personwould not be Amtrak staff but an independent contractor.

    City board members would prefer to see staff in the facilitycontinuously.

    “We’re not in any hurry to sign a lease,” Bumgarner said. “We wantto make sure that the city gets the best deal it can.”