By BILL ARCHER
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
With a few notable exceptions, Exit 1 on I-77 in Mercer County has been a blind spot for the traveling public, but that is about to change. Contract crews are already hard at work transforming the former Eagle Truck Lines building on John Nash Boulevard into the new Bluefield Area Transit headquarters.
“When the work is done, this entire entrance area will look a lot different,” Patrick McKinney said during a tour of the facility last Thursday before the snowstorm hit the region. “The road coming into the facility will be tree-lined and it will be lit with old time street lights similar to the ones in the downtown. It will change the look of this entire area.”
The city of Bluefield recently acquired a 33-acre parcel of land that includes the 3.5 acres where the BAT facility is located. “Some of the city’s property is on the mountain side, but there is a beautiful 3-acre site beside the bus garage that is already level and ready to go,” McKinney said. “It would be suitable for several different kinds of developments.”
Right now, McKinney is focused on the interior transformation of the former truck garage into a state-of-the art public transit facility. McKinney has guided a steady expansion of the BAT system that has enabled buses to now serve Bluefield, Princeton, Welch and Athens, but also to connect with the Bluefield, Va., bus system and even the Four-County Transit System based in Lebanon, Va.
“A couple of days a week, riders can make connections through the systems to ride public transportation all the way to Bristol, Va.,” McKinney said. “We’re serving a lot more riders as we grow.”
McKinney said that one of the best parts of the renovation project at the new BAT headquarters is that the $2,756,570 in funding for the project is coming entirely from the West Virginia Division of Public Transit. The Federal Transit Administration provided $2,205,256 for the project and the state of West Virginia provided $551,314. “There are no local matching funds involved in the project,” he said.
In addition to remodeling the 11,346-square-foot structure for use by the buses including modern maintenance bays and a bus-wash bay, contractors will demolish the old administration portion of the facility. McKinney said that Susan L. O’Connell, director of the West Virginia Division of Public Transit, has been great to work with on the project.
DanHill Construction of Gauley Bridge is the contractor on the project. Nathan Johnston of Fayetteville-based Glen Ferris said that the completion deadline on the project is December, but if all of the materials arrive on time, the job could be finished by late October.
“Almost every transit system in the entire state will be in a new facility in the next few years,” McKinney said. He said that there will be a fueling station near the site where the present administration system is located.
The BAT system has a total of 24 buses, with about 18 or 19 on the road on any given day. McKinney said in addition to the service areas, the completed facility will include five offices and a training room where a group of as many as 35 people can undergo training at the same time. McKinney said the BAT system hopes to move into the new facility in December
— Contact Bill Archer at email@example.com