Ames’ new intermodal facility cuts ribbon June 9

The Ames intermodal facility ribbon cutting will be Saturday, June 9. The facility is located at Hayward Avenue and Chamberlain Street and will offer covered and uncovered parking for students, faculty/staff and Ames residents.

Frances Myers

What originally was merely a concept in 2006 in the Ames community is now getting ready to be real and available to the public Saturday.

The Ames Intermodal Transportation Hub, now located at 129 Hayward Ave., was nothing more than a conversation among people in Ames more than six years ago. Since then, it has become a concrete reality with the help of the Federal Transit Administration and the city of Ames.

“What really allowed it to become a reality was the availability of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding,” said Sheri Kyras, Ames and CyRide transit director. “That’s stimulus money that transit systems could apply for for exactly this type of facility. So obviously with the concept already developed, we put our thoughts down into an application for this.”

In 2006, CyRide began conversations with Iowa State and city partners about the need for an intermodal transportation facility. Around that time, according to the CyRide website, the university was experiencing problems due to “substantial student/faculty growth” and the lack of parking. Also, around this time the intercity transportation providers’ depot, which consisted of Burlington Trailways and Jefferson Lines was located on the eastern outskirts of Ames.

“When we started this project, my recollection was that the over road buses were dropping and picking up their customers near I-35,” said Cathy Brown, program manager in Iowa State’s facilities planning and management. She was the university planner for the project. “That was quite a challenge for students to get to and from there. Sometimes it was happening in the middle of the night. So it really didn’t present a safe situation for students either so we felt that was a real key component to provide a safe, reliable facility for the students.”

The project was nothing more than conversation for three years. Then, in 2010, it was finally able to begin becoming reality when Ames was awarded a Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation for nearly $8.5 million. Ames was one of 51 candidates chosen out of 1,400 applicants, Kyras said.

“The original budget was $43 million, and it was a much bigger facility that was envisioned,” Kyras said. “When we received $8.463 million, significantly less, what we did as a community is to divide the project into two phases.”

The first phase of the facility, Kyras said, was built with the funding they had. Along with the funding from the grant, they had other pieces of funding to be used, including an additional Section 5309 award for $350,000 at 80 percent and a local match for the 5309 award at 20 percent, which amounted to $87,500. This amounted to about $9.2 million, which “is what we designed the first phase to be and the remainder of it we hope to get funded here in the future,” Kyras said.

Kyras said they have applied for another round of the grant for phase two. The project team should be hearing back from the Department of Transportation within the next month or so.

Phase one of the project includes: 384 parking spaces for short and long-term use; bike path connections to the community with shower and bike locker facilities; bus terminal for intercity and regional carriers – Jefferson, Burlington Trailways, Executive Express and HIRTA; connections to CyRide one block from the facility at Chamberlain Street and Welch Avenue; 20 parking spaces for van and car pools; a taxi stand; and public restrooms.

Kyras said the next and final phase of the project will include additional parking with 250 additional parking spaces and 20 more van pool spaces. She also speculated the operating budget would be sufficient to fund a circulator route for CyRide that would operate from the facility through campus and then connect up with the transfer points of other buses. CyRide will not be circulating through the facility but will have a stop about a block away. The cost of phase two is estimated at $12 million.

The facility is expected to provide a new source of economic impact to Campustown. Brown said it is envisioned to be a service support and stimulus for the area.

“One of the challenges for Campustown in a broader sense is adequate parking,” Brown said. “Now that may or may not impact students in the context of students getting to and from Campustown but we’re hopeful that it will increase the access for the broader community to Campustown, and we think that is a favorable situation because, first of all, it facilitates a broader cross section of the community engaging in dining and other services that are available in Campustown.”

Brown said this will provide a stronger financial base durring more months of the year with the student body changing so much in size between the regular school year and summer as well as holiday breaks.

“[Students are] generally in town about 30 weeks of the year, and businesses need 50 weeks of patronage,” Brown said. “The idea of increasing access to the broader community means more financial stability to the businesses of Campustown. Then ideally, we also hope it will translate into a broader mix of businesses and services available to both students in the community. So by enhancing the parking, we would make it more accessible to more people.”

The ribbon cutting ceremony is scheduled to start at 11:30 a.m. Saturday, June 9, at the facility. Tom Harkin, senator; Peter M Rogoff, administrator for the Federal Transit Administration; Steven Leath, ISU president, Paul Trombino III, director of the Iowa Department of Transportation; Ann Campbell, city mayor; and Robert Anders, president of Ames Transit Agency, are all expected to attend.

The public is welcome to attend. According to a news release from the city of Ames, “those attending [the] ribbon cutting celebration should enter the surface parking lot off Sheldon Avenue. The event will feature refreshments and live music. The event serves as the kick-off to the second annual Campustown Summerfest festival, which will continue through Saturday along Welch Avenue.”

While the ribbon-cutting ceremony is Saturday, Kyras pointed out that, due to delay in materials and some installments, the facility will not be open until later in the week. There will be an announcement when it officially opens.

From opening day until July 30, the facility will be available to the public and students for free.

“Beginning in August, parking permits will be required for reserved spaces, and the daily meter rates of 75 cents per hour will be charged. Iowa State’s Parking Division will operate the facility on behalf of the city of Ames,” according to the news release.