A first of its kind in the nation transit center opens Monday in western Massachusetts. The multi-modal facility in downtown Greenfield was dedicated Friday in honor of a soon to be retired Congressman. WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill reports.
Top state and federal officials described the John W. Olver Transit Center as a hub for transportation, a catalyst for economic development and a cutting edge application of green technology. The three elements, they said, make it a fitting tribute to Olver's exemplary record of public service and his legacy to the region. Olver said he was truly humbled by what he called a great honor.
The building is the first zero-net-energy transit center built in the country. It will be the operational hub for the Franklin Regional Transit Authority. The second floor is the new headquarters for the Franklin Regional Council of Governments.
The crowded dedication ceremony was a reminder that Olver, who shuns self-promotion, has through earmarks and appropriations, put his fingerprints on transportation projects all across the state.
Olver, who is retiring in January, after 44 years in elected office, joked that he'd always been careful when it came to attaching his name to something.
The transit center, built on the site of a former car dealership, is powered by solar panels, heated by geothermal wells, has copper screens to keep heat out, sensor controlled lighting, and in the words of architect Charles Rose, all the bells and whistles they could think of.
The transit center was the first shovel ready project started in Massachusetts in 2009 with $13 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. State officials said it resulted in 287 jobs.
Administrator Peter Rogoff, of the Federal Transit Administration, said it was exactly the kind of project President Obama had in mind when he signed the economic stimulus bill. He said it is also an example of the President's strategy for dealing with gasoline prices.
Another federally funded project to refurbish a rail line between Springfield and the Vermont border will bring passenger trains to the new transit center in about two years.
FRTA administrator Tina Cote said ridership is up 20 percent since 2009 and she expects the new station will boost it higher.
After the dedication ceremony, Governor Deval Patrick told reporters he would produce a comprehensive plan for transportation funding and was hopeful it would be acted on in the next legislative session. Transit authorities across the state warn riders will face fare hikes and drastic service cuts if there is not more state funding..