ORT to use $2.9 million federal grant to replace administrative office

by Jeff Della Rosa (JDellaRosa@nwabj.com) 231 views 

Springdale-based transit provider Ozark Regional Transit (ORT) will receive a $2.9 million federal grant and use it to build a 10,000-square-foot office building, replacing the existing administrative office on U.S. Highway 412 in east Springdale.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao announced Tuesday (Sept. 25) that the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) will award $366.2 million in grants for 107 projects in 50 states and territories. The funding is from the FTA’s Buses and Bus Facilities Infrastructure Investment Program, and this is the third consecutive year that ORT has applied for this grant program.

“Third time’s a charm,” said Joel Gardner, executive director for ORT. “Perseverance pays off.”

ORT is working to replace its existing 4,500-square-foot administrative office building as it has had issues with water and critters entering the building. Gardner explained that because the building is below the grade of the adjacent highway, water seeps up through the floor. Also, squirrels and birds have been able to get into the building, and some have died in the walls. The new single-story building is expected to be more efficient, have better heating and cooling and keep out the water and critters. Plans include 16 offices, dispatch area, multiple bathrooms, kitchen area and lounge for drivers and room for expansion. It also will have meeting space large enough to host its board meetings.

The federal grant requires a 20% match, and ORT will use the land on which the existing office is located for the match. The building will be built on property between the maintenance building and existing office, which will be removed and become a parking lot after construction is completed. ORT is considering whether to use a design-build process that would allow the contractor to be on board before the office building is designed.

“We’re going to lean heavily on (Arkansas Department of Transportation) for guidance,” said Gardner, adding that a timeline for construction has yet to be set, but he hopes that the staff will be moved into the new office in less than two years. Plans to build a new office have been in the works for three to four years.

ORT was the only Arkansas recipient of the Buses and Bus Facilities Infrastructure Investment Program.

“These grants will help rebuild and modernize bus systems across the country for greater safety,” Chao said.

The grant money will support projects to replace, rehabilitate and purchase buses and related equipment and will be used for projects to purchase, rehabilitate and construct bus-related facilities.

The FTA received 255 applications for 339 eligible projects, with a total funding request of $2 billion, for its Buses and Bus Facilities Infrastructure Investment Program. The selected projects will receive fiscal year 2018 funds. The Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act allows the FTA program to issue grants through fiscal 2020. In fiscal 2018, the FTA has awarded more than $15 billion in funding through formula and competitive grant programs to support public transportation.

On April 5, the FTA announced ORT would receive a $3.6 million grant to replace the majority, if not all, of the remaining buses that have yet to be replaced after a Jan. 10, 2017, fire that destroyed 20 buses and damaged two buildings at the transit provider’s headquarters. ORT will use the funding to purchase 12 diesel-powered buses from Creative Bus Sales, which has a Springdale sales office.

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