MIDDLEBURY — Addison County Transit Resources (ACTR) has secured a combined total of more than $710,000 through two grants to help propel its proposed $4.2 million Middlebury headquarters closer to reality.
James Moulton, ACTR executive director, confirmed the two grants during an interview with the Addison Independenton Thursday.
One of the grants is a state award of $356,250 that ACTR will apply to the $712,500 local share the county’s public transportation organization needs to raise for the $4.2 million facility it plans to build at 341 Creek Road. The local match is related to a $2.85 million federal earmark secured by Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., through the Omnibus Appropriation Bill of 2009.
The second grant, for $360,000, is federal money that will cover inflationary increases for the project that have accrued since 2009, according to Moulton. This means that ACTR will not have to cut portions of the project to meet the $4.2-million budget that had been established three years ago. The $360,000 grant includes a $40,000 local match requirement.
Both grants will be funneled to ACTR through the Vermont Agency of Transportation (Vtrans).
“We are very excited and pleased that the state has clearly recognized the value of the project, and that they have stepped up to provide this funding. It makes a huge difference for us to be able to continue focusing on the services that we want to provide and not so much on the capital campaign… ” Moulton said. “(The grants) will make a tremendous difference in the success, overall.”
ACTR’s space crunch has been well documented.
The organization currently rents 1,000 square feet of space in a building off Boardman Street that also houses Helping Overcome Poverty’s Effects (HOPE) Community Services. That space must be shared by ACTR’s 27 full- and part-time workers.
At the same time, ACTR does not have adequate on-site space for its fleet of 16 buses.
To solve theses problems, ACTR is finalizing plans for a 14,000-square-foot facility that is to be located on the northern, undeveloped portion of land that is part of the Vtrans property at 341 Creek Rd. Half of the building is to be devoted to in-house vehicle care and maintenance.
ACTR officials have been lobbying for expanded facilities in view of expanded local demand for public transportation.
During fiscal year 2011 (which ended June 30), ACTR dispensed around 156,000 rides, up from 128,000 during fiscal year 2010, according to Moulton. The organization is on pace to deliver 176,000 rides this fiscal year.
“We have seen two giant jumps,” Moulton said of ridership.
And with gas prices bumping up against $4 per gallon, ACTR officials are forecasting a steady growth in ridership during the years to come.
“It has been amazing to watch,” Moulton said of the surge, “and it is just going to increase.”
The nonprofit’s regular routes include a Middlebury in-town shuttle, a Tri-Town Shuttle that links Bristol, Vergennes and Middlebury and a Snow Bowl Shuttle that goes through Ripton. ACTR collaborates with other agencies on buses from Middlebury to Rutland and Burlington.
On April 23, ACTR launched a new Route 116 service linking Bristol to Burlington. That Route 116 service is already proving to be a winner, according to Moulton. The organization has been using a 16-seater bus that was consistently boarded by 14 riders during its first week in service.
“We are already looking at putting a bigger bus on the road,” Moulton said.
ACTR is currently refining its building plans with an architect. Assuming permitting proceeds smoothly, Moulton envisions a summer groundbreaking for the new facility. In the meantime, the organization is working with architects and engineers to get the project organized.
“There are a lot of moving parts to the puzzle,” Moulton said.
Dean George, chairman of the ACTR board, was pleased to hear about the infusion of grant money and progress toward building the new facility.
“It’s exciting,” said George, who is also chairman of the Middlebury selectboard. “Jim and his staff have been going through all the hoops to unlock the money. It’s been a huge undertaking.
“I guess we can proceed on schedule now and hopefully get the construction part of it under way.”
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected]