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Bus center could get stimulus funds

March 13, 2009|By HEATHER KEELS

HAGERSTOWN -- A new County Commuter transfer center proposed for downtown Hagerstown stands a good chance of getting about $839,000 in federal stimulus money, Washington County Public Works Director Joseph Kroboth said this week.

Combined with two other potential grants, the stimulus money would reduce Washington County's share of the $1.5 million project to about $420,000, Kroboth said.

When the project was first proposed last fall, officials thought the county would have to contribute more than $800,000.

The new transfer center is proposed for a row of mostly vacant lots the county purchased last year at the corner of West Franklin and Prospect streets. It would include spaces for County Commuter busses, a commuter waiting area with benches and canopies, a driver breakroom, and a tree-lined parking lot with about 83 permit-only parking spaces, Kroboth said.

The transfer center would replace the county's current transfer point under the railroad bridge on West Washington Street.

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At the Washington County Commissioners meeting Tuesday, Kroboth presented a concept plan for the site that included several changes from the one presented last fall.

Instead of having busses park along Prospect and Franklin streets, as originally planned, the new design shows bus parking along a bus turnaround loop at the east end of the center. It includes spaces for eight busses, up from six in the original plan.

Commissioner Kristin B. Aleshire said the revised plan was more attractive aesthetically and financially.

"I think it's a much better layout," he said. "I certainly like seeing that the road properties on Franklin and Prospect are not completely blocked by bus parking."

Some parking spaces at the center would be reserved for staff and most would be rented, Kroboth said.

A building at the corner of Prospect and Franklin would have to be demolished for the project, Kroboth said. The county is waiting for city approval for the demolition, he said.

Last fall, commissioners asked county staff to talk to neighboring businesses to see if they would be interested in contributing to a parking deck in place of the lot.

A survey of the 47 closest properties showed little interest in the idea, Special Projects Director Gary W. Rohrer told the commissioners Tuesday.

Eight businesses responded, and only three were interested in paying for parking at the site. Between them, there was a need for about 38 spaces during the day and about 60 to 65 spaces for evening and weekend use. Most were for Discovery Station, Rohrer said.

"What I can tell you, the site has been configured, in the event that 20, 30, 40, 50 years from now, a future board would like to develop that as a parking structure or as a combination parking structure and office building, the surface parking lot is conducive for development," Kroboth said.

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