City of Natchez to receive funding for transit facility

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 19, 2010

NATCHEZ — Public transit in Natchez has taken a revolutionary turn.

The City of Natchez will receive more than $2.5 million in state and federal funds to develop a state-of-the-art regional intermodal transit facility, Mississippi Department of Transportation Executive Director Larry L. “Butch” Brown said.

MDOT and the American Recovery and Reinvestment act will fund the construction of the 9,000-square-foot facility, which will be located on the site of the old AB Motor Company on North Shields Lane.

The facility will serve as a hub for public and private transportation providers in Adams, Claiborne, Jefferson, Franklin, Lincoln, Copiah, Simpson, Jefferson Davis and Wilkinson counties.

“Without the ARRA funding that we were so fortunate to receive, this project could have remained on a wish list,” Brown said in a news release. “This facility will enable Natchez to take another step in its development as a true intermodal hub in the state of Mississippi.”

Brown said the facility will provide passengers up-to-the-minute information about local and regional transportation schedules. Passengers will also be able travel to destinations within southwest Mississippi for either work or leisure.

The facility will include parking spaces for customers, a park and ride service, a modern transit vehicle maintenance facility and a regional transportation call center, along with parking space and storage for up to 28 transit vehicles.

Brown’s announcement was news Natchez Senior Center Multi-Purpose Complex Director Sabrena Bartley has waited five years to hear.

Bartley, who also oversees the Natchez Transit System, is the brainchild behind the facility, and estimates the facility will employ approximately 40 people upon completion.

“This will be the first facility of its kind in rural Mississippi, so once again Natchez is leading the way,” Bartley said. “We are the benchmark, and it’s going to be hard for others to reach.”

Bartley worked closely with city department heads, including City Engineer David Gardner, to apply for funding. Gardner said Bartley’s passion for the project prompted city officials to join her efforts.

Gardner said the city will advertise requests for proposals for architectural, engineering and real estate consultants once an official letter of intent is delivered to City Hall.

Currently, the Natchez Food Pantry and three other agencies are housed in the old AB Motor Company building, and the city agreed to relocate those agencies if the facility received funding. The city also entered into an extended option to purchase property behind the old motor company.

“We’re anxious to get the grant under way and get those transactions taken care of,” Gardner said.

Gardner estimates professional consulting for the facility will take four months.

Mayor Jake Middleton said the facility will spur an economic boost to the area, and credited the teamwork among local, state and federal officials on acquiring the necessary funding.

“We’ve got a team here that won’t take ‘no’ for an answer,” Middleton said. “This goes to show you that all our work is not done in vain.”