City, county to apply for $3.5M for transit facility


By Kristin Maglabe

The city and county of DeKalb are requesting more than $3.5 million in grants from the Illinois Department of Transportation for a new public transit facility due to growth in ridership and vehicles.

DeKalb County’s Voluntary Action Center, an organization that provides transportation services to those in need, is spearheading the construction of the public transit facility. Tom Zucker, Voluntary Action Center executive director, asked the City Council to submit an application for the $3 million grant to the Illinois Department of Transportation on Monday.

DeKalb County is applying for a $550,000 grant for the facility.

“It is an objective of the project to be funded completely by federal and state capital grants,” Zucker said.

Zucker said he is hopeful the grant will be fulfilled because although two previous applications for the grant were not funded, the project “received favorable reviews” from the Illinois Department of Transportation. The resolution to submit the application for the grant was passed unanimously at the council meeting.

The current public transit facility, 1606 Bethany Road in Sycamore, was built in 1988 using a federal grant given to the county, Zucker said. While the building is not severely damaged, the growth in ridership and number of vehicles in the fleet has surpassed the 13,000 square feet of the facility.

“The site originally designed to accommodate approximately 25 transit vehicles cannot accommodate the current fleet of 41 vehicles,” Zucker said. “The site is severely overused and is lacking in both parking and general circulation.”

Public transportation ridership was around 50,000 in 1988 and last year it reached almost 230,000, Zucker said.

The new facility is estimated to be 60,000 square feet, and the DeKalb County Board has committed a piece of land for the building.

Second ward Alderman Bill Finucane said he was in favor of submitting the grant application.

“They are forced to store buses outside even in the coldest weather and that makes it very hard on the equipment and the personnel,” Finucane said. “Again, these are all non-municipal dollars that we’d be getting to use for this project and I think that’s a benefit not just for the city of DeKalb, but also for the county.”

Brian Dickson, DeKalb-Sycamore Area Transportation Study coordinator, said the state has already approved the grants being asked for by the city and county, but proof of plans moving forward must be presented to obligate the grants.

“We have received notification that the state is looking at all these on-paper grants and if there is no forward-moving action on them they’re removing them,” Dickson said.

The city is looking for possible federal grants to help complete the project, Dickson said. The state grants will be used to study the environmental impact of the site, the preliminary engineering design of the facility and development, like leveling the site for construction, Dickson said.