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New facility to roll-in for PRT buses

The buses in Pocatello are getting a new home.

On Tuesday afternoon, Pocatello Regional Transit and the City of Pocatello finally held its long-awaited groundbreaking ceremony for the new PRT facility.

This comes after a decade of trying to get this $6 million project launched, while PRT workers have been enduring a collapsing, 80-year-old facility.

PRT director Dave Hunt said he is in disbelief it is finally happening.

“I know my staff was wondering if it would ever pass,” Hunt said.

He said the process was lengthy, with plenty of hurdles they needed to clear before shovels could finally hit the ground.

“Garnering support, getting the funding together, deciding on the property, going through all of the process and so forth – it has just been a long process but it will be worth it.”

Hunt said the first time they looked at a cost estimate, the project was slated to cost around $1 million. Now, it’s up to between five and six million.

Both Hunt and Pocatello Mayor Brian Blad said getting the funding for the project was the most challenging part.

Hunt said the Federal Transit Administration was the primary financial backer, with state, federal, and county lawmakers also pushing for the new facility.

New versus old:

Hunt said the new facility will house the operations, administration and maintenance departments in one location. Before, staff had to drive across various locations around town in order to work with each department.

He said the facility itself will be more cost-effective and energy-efficient to run. Whereas, the current building has poor lighting, expensive to maintain and operate, and does not provide the capacity for the proper equipment to fix vehicles when needed.

“Just to heat and cool alone has been thousands of dollars each month, so that will be a huge change for us,” Hunt said.

This means, Hunt believes the new facility will allow for safer buses.

Blad said he hopes the new location will also allow Pocatello to become a stronger, more central hub for transportation across all seven counties PRT services.

“We are going to make this a regional area,” Blad said. “More of an area for people to come and go and we will be able to transport people from Preston, clear all the way up through Yellowstone.”

Blad also said the community can expect to see the city building-up the area south of town – starting with the up-and-coming South Valley Connector.

“You’re going to have houses, development, businesses, no question. This is where we will grow and everything will be centrally located.”

Whether or not the PRT will act as a catalyst to this, the city hopes this will help boost growth within the community.

Plans for the current facility:

Blad also said so far, the city’s Sanitation Department plans on purchasing the run-down building, where it will either tear it down or turn it into storage.

Follow Kaitlin on Twitter: @KaitlinLoukides

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