Macon Transit to get new bus garage

jgaines@macon.comJuly 9, 2014 

The Macon Transit Authority is ready to buy a two-building property at 2737 Broadway to use as its own bus garage and maintenance facility.

The transit authority has been looking at potential garage sites for nearly seven years, since its former garage on Riverside Drive was torn down, said Rick Jones, MTA’s general manager. Work toward buying the property on Broadway, just across Eisenhower Parkway, has been underway for a year. It’s much more suitable than anything else they’ve looked at, and better than the current arrangement in which MTA shares the Macon-Bibb County Vehicle & Equipment Maintenance garage, Jones said.

The Broadway site, now owned by Cliff Joyner, is nearly new and was intended as a tractor-trailer sales location.

“It was built as a maintenance facility and administrative offices,” Jones said.

The buildings, complete with furniture, can be bought for $1.38 million, said Andy Stroud, MTA’s marketing and facilities director.

Jones said the sale can go through as soon as approval arrives from state and federal officials to use a $1.3 million grant, which doesn’t require a local match.

“It’s funds that the Obama administration made available here, not too long into his first term,” he said. “We’ll need to come up with between $80,000 and $100,000 of our own to pay for the building.”

The sales contract could be complete by the end of this week.

“We could move in tomorrow,” he said. “We will actually start the moving immediately, as soon as we finish closing on this thing.”

Jones and other MTA officials toured the Broadway site Wednesday with Georgia Department of Transportation and Federal Transit Administration representatives, who indicated their approval of the purchase.

“This is a really fine opportunity for MTA,” Tom McCormick, an FTA consultant, said to Jones. “You come out ahead on this one.”

Jones, Stroud, and MTA Grants Manager René Sanders-Williams took McCormick and two GDOT transit planners, Antoine Hawkins and Eileen Washington, on a tour of the current and future bus garages.

A paratransit bus driven by JoAnn Lamb, an MTA dispatcher, led a four-vehicle caravan from the transit authority’s office and main transfer station at Terminal Station, 200 Cherry St., to the Macon-Bibb garage a mile away at 1122 Seventh St. There a line of buses was parked near police cars and garbage trucks, and two buses were being worked on Wednesday afternoon.

“It’s really a car-type shop, and it’s not really conducive to working on buses; so (the new site) will be much better for us,” Jones said.

Buses are now washed by hand, with a bucket and hose, behind the current garage. The transit authority wants a bus wash at the new facility -- along with two or three more hydraulic lifts and a fully paved lot -- but that will have to be done piecemeal with future grants, Jones said.

Then the group moved on another mile to the new site. About half the area is paved, and half is in gravel. One building would serve as a garage, with six large bay doors down the side. The other building has office space in the front and a large room for equipment and parts storage in back. Joyner, the current owner, said he had already installed piping for a truck wash area.

Jones said some MTA offices could move to the new garage, making room in the renovated part of Terminal Station for a regional transportation call center. That call center would coordinate between various transit systems, helping people transfer between them, he said. A grant is already in hand to build the call center, which has waited on suitable space, Jones said.

To contact writer Jim Gaines, call 744-4489.

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