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Kingsport cuts ribbon on new transit center

Matthew Lane • Jun 15, 2019 at 7:30 AM

KINGSPORT — Before a packed plaza of city employees, elected officials and dozens of daily bus riders, Kingsport officially cut the ribbon Friday morning on its state-of-the-art transit center.

The Kingsport Area Transit Service’s new $5.5 million facility is located at the corner of Main and Sullivan streets — one of the main gateways into downtown Kingsport — and has been under construction since October 2017. Buses began operating out of the center on Monday, and the city is offering free rides all month to help riders and drivers get acclimated to the new facility and the modified routes.

“Plans for this new transit center have been six years in the making; however, it’s important to note none of this would be possible without the contributions of many, many people over the past 30 years,” said Chris Campbell, KATS transit director. “It’s thrilling to see this vision become a reality, and I must commend all of the hard work and planning it took to bring us to this point.”

ABOUT THE FACILITY

The new center greatly improves upon its old Clay Street location. It’s much bigger — 6,500 square feet — and includes a lobby with seating for passengers, more restrooms (men’s, women’s and a family one), a larger dispatch center (where employees can see the buses roll in), a driver’s area, conference rooms, administrative offices and a small workout room for the drivers.

Outside are 12 slots for buses, shelters with benches, bike racks and a small parking lot for staff. The center of the plaza has stamped, decorative concrete, public art and landscaping around the exterior. The building itself has a similar look when compared to other downtown buildings: red brick, sandstone panels, a metal roof and arches around the windows.

All six bus routes have been improved, including the newest one, Route 6, which will now travel into Colonial Heights to serve additional riders and will stop at the Food City on Moreland Drive. Information about the new routes will be available online next week, and new route books are currently available at the transit center.

“If you look around, the results speak for themselves,” said City Manager Jeff Fleming. “This is a center we can be proud of for generations to come.”

THE NEXT STEP

Although officials celebrated the opening of the new transit facility on Friday, a phase two plan for the property is in the works. It includes a bus storage garage and vehicle wash facility.

Kingsport has twice applied for $3.2 million in federal transit funds to go toward this second, $4 million phase. However, the city has not yet been awarded those grant dollars.

The garage would include storage for the entire fleet (currently 22 vehicles) and extra space for future vehicles, heavy duty roadbed/parking, and an area inside for light duty maintenance, such as cleaning and inspection.

Campbell offered more information about other, future improvements to the facility, including an expansion of service hours, Wi-Fi accessibility, digital display route information, weather and new updates and mobile fare payment options.

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