Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Progress being made for south valley transit center

Mountain Rides and county finalizing land purchase agreement

Express Staff Writer

Mountain Rides Transportation Authority puts its busier winter bus schedule into effect on Thursday. New schedules for the Ketchum-Sun Valley area, the city of Hailey and Valley Route services are now available at bus stops, on buses and a many retail locations. With more buses running, Mountain Rides needs more drivers. Five-year bus driver Jose Victorino, at left, is shown here teaching new driver Jene Holloway proper driving techniques.
Express photo by Roland Lane

    Mountain Rides Transportation Authority and the Blaine County Commission have reached a tentative agreement on the sale of county-owned property in south Bellevue that would be used for a Mountain Rides transportation center for the south valley.
    “We are very close to having identified and owning that south valley site,” Mountain Rides board Chair Susan McBryant said at a Nov. 20 board meeting. “This could go fast if it flies.”
    The property in question is two undeveloped lots on the north side of Clover Lane where it intersects Gannett Road. The total size of the property is about .5 acres. If the purchase is made, Mountain Rides would construct a building for maintenance and housing of buses for its Valley Route that connects travelers between the Bellevue and Hailey areas and the Ketchum and Sun Valley areas.
    While design of the center has not been done, the size of the property leaves little room for a park-and-ride facility, as Mountain Rides earlier intended at a larger site a few blocks to the north.
    “It doesn’t give us a lot of room for a park-and-ride, but given the final configuration it may still give us a handful of spots for people coming up from the south,” Mountain Rides Executive Director Jason Miller said Tuesday.
    Establishment of a south valley transportation center has been a desire of Mountain Rides for several years. A plan to purchase the larger site was scotched last year when the city of Bellevue declined to approve a change in its zoning law that would have allowed establishment of the center.
    Bellevue officials said then that the property would benefit the city more if it were used for commercial purposes rather than by a not-for-profit public agency, such as Mountain Rides. The property has since been sold by its former owner, Gannett 75 LLC, to Joe’s Backhoe Service.
    Miller acknowledged that Bellevue officials will have to approve a variance for the county-owned land to be developed into a transportation center, but said the city at this point doesn’t seem resistant to the plan.
    “I’ve had initial meetings with the city of Bellevue and initial indications are positive as to what we want to do with this site,” Miller said.
    Mountain Rides estimates that the total cost of developing the center, including land, will be about $1 million. The organization has likely funding of $800,000 from the Federal Transit Authority, while the balance would be local matching funds.
    The county-owned property has been assessed at $155,000 and Miller said Mountain Rides and the commissioners have verbally agreed to the price. County attorney Tim Graves has been instructed by the commissioners to draft an agreement stating terms of the deal. Miller hopes the deal can be finalized before the end of the year.
    Tentatively for the property purchase, Mountain Rides would pay the county $85,500 and give the county $40,000 in credit for capital equipment payments that the county provides annually to Mountain Rides. The remaining funding, which Miller said has not been clearly defined, would be “in-kind” services.
    “We’re not quite there yet,” Miller said. “We’re working with the county right now and hopefully we can reach an agreement within the next few weeks. The good news is the county’s agreed essentially to sell these lots to Mountain Rides and Mountain Rides has agreed that these are very good lots for us for a south valley transportation center.”
Terry Smith:

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