The Des Moines Area Regional Transit Authority’s Central Station: A Hub of Iowa Public Transportation
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The Des Moines Area Regional Transit Authority (DART) proudly serves 19 cities in and around Polk County, Iowa. Like many public transportation authorities in the country, DART faced an 18-percent jump in ridership in 2008 – roughly four times the national average – and major budget shortfalls in the wake of the economic downturn. Even when DART reduced its services by five percent and implemented a fare increase, the authority had to grapple with major funding gaps.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) then allotted DART $7.88 million in 2010 for operating assistance, to purchase new vehicles, to carry out facility improvement projects, and to implement an Automatic Vehicle Locating (AVL) system, which tracks the location of vehicles and helps DART better manage its fleet.
Meanwhile, DART’s first priority project finally moved forward in 2010, as the ARRA provided the necessary funding to begin preliminary engineering and design of DART’S LEED-certified Central Station. With preliminary design completed, DART was then able to pursue the additional federal funding needed to construct the new transit hub in downtown Des Moines.
Even though the project was not one of 51 projects to receive funding through the first round of Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grants, the project received a whopping $10 million in TIGER II grants.
The TIGER II grants completed the funding needed for the $21 million project, which previously received $4 million from the State of Iowa’s I-JOBS infrastructure investment initiative and $6.5 million from the Federal Transit Administration’s Bus and Bus Livability Initiative.
Des Moines-based Substance Architecture designed the new station to include as many sustainable features as possible in hopes of achieving LEED Gold certification, while also allowing DART to consolidate all of its transfer functions into one central location.
The new DART Central Station’s location creates something of a gateway to the downtown core. The hub is located a block from the historic Rock Island Train Depot, which holds the potential for creating a rail connection to Chicago and Omaha. The hub replaces the older Walnut Street Transit Mall with a state-of-the-art facility boasting a transfer platform with 15 saw-tooth bays and plenty of interconnecting covered walkways, along with a climate-controlled indoor waiting area and lots of administrative space for DART employees. In addition, there is an available vendor space for a coffee shop or other business to lease.
Substance Architecture designed the new station with rooftop photovoltaic panels and geothermal wells to help power, heat and cool the buildings, which is supplemented by an 850 kW natural gas generator. Ontario-based Sota Glazing Inc. supplied the two-story building’s engineered curtain wall system, opting to use the Thermo 3 system for its robust thermal insulation.
The building also includes a wealth of low-voltage electrical systems, ranging from voice and data to card access and CCTV surveillance systems. DART also integrated the hub’s signage with its ARRA-funded AVL system, providing commuters with accurate arrival and departure times. The authority also opted to share the real-time schedules with commuters through the DART website and a DART mobile phone app.
DART let the project go to bidding and The Weitz Company (Weitz) was the successful low bidder to oversee the project as general contractor. Weitz’ experience runs the gamut of commercial, industrial and public work. Additionally, Weitz ranks amongst the top 100 of the ENR’s Top 400 Contractors.
Honesty, integrity, respect and a long-term perspective make up the company’s core values and drive the team at Weitz to deliver projects as promised and uphold the goal of absolute reliability. These values positioned the company advantageously in the case of the hub project as the team encountered its fair share of challenges along the way.
The owner held a ground-breaking ceremony in May 2011, with construction officially breaking ground in August 2011, with the goal of delivering the project in fall 2012. “We came across buried rubble and a few other issues on the project, but we were able to overcome them with teamwork and a lot of hard work,” admits Amy Fetters, senior project manager at Weitz. The Weitz Company enlisted the help of local subcontractors for the mechanical, electrical and trade specialties involved in the project, completing interior and exterior concrete work and interior millwork with in-house labor.
Fetters estimates the station will be completed in October 2012, giving DART a few weeks to ensure the Central Station will be open for transit by the end of 2012. The Des Moines Area Regional Transit Authority’s Central Station will ensure the systems 16,000 daily riders remain up to date and informed on all operations when open.
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