Construction on a new transfer center could begin next summer

Eau Claire’s transit station, built in 1985, looks to get a five-million dollar makeover, with construction beginning in August 2020

More stories from Taylor Hagmann

The Eau Claire Transit Center will be renovated starting next summer.

Photo by Submitted

The Eau Claire Transit Center will be renovated starting next summer.

In 1985, a temporary, cinder-block building was built to serve as Eau Claire’s transit station. It has been over thirty years, and Tom Wagener, the transit manager since 2015, said it’s time it was replaced. 

Wagener said that in 2017, the city of Eau Claire applied for funding through the US Department of Transportation and Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER), now Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD), is part of a stimulus package set in place by former President Barack Obama in 2009.

Wagener said even though few applications are approved, the City of Eau Claire received their award of five million dollars in the spring of 2018 and hopes that construction will start around August 2020.

In addition to the grant, the project will be aided by a 1.25 million dollar local share as well.

“We would love to be able to start construction at the end of summer next year,” Wagener said.

Construction on the center is estimated to take somehwere between between 14 and 16 months to complete, he said.

This means there will need to be another temporary transfer center built in another location to accomodate for the construction. Wagener said a temporary shelter will be erected in the Schlegelmilch parking lot, which is kitty-corner from the current station.

Amber Willi, an administrative associate at the transfer center office on Forest Street, said her biggest concern with both the current building and the new temporary shelter will be accessibility, especially for those in wheelchairs.

“It’s very difficult for people to be able to move around in the current building,” Willi said.

“(The new center) will be really great for anyone with disabilities,” she said.

In addition to better accessibility, the new facility will have better amenities, including restrooms and an air-controlled environment, Wagener said.

“Right now, it’s just a port-a-potty and basically space heaters,” Wagener said.

The new station will also have a docking system for the busses. Each route will have its own specific location, so that passengers don’t have to wander around to find their bus, as opposed to the current system, Wagener said.

The new building will be seven stories, Wagener said. The transit center will be on the ground floor and have parking above it, since the metered lot outside the current transfer center will be removed to accommodate the new building.

In addition to those two floors, a private developer plans to add three floors of “workforce” housing and an additional two floors of parking.

In addition to the new transfer center, Eau Claire Transit will also be purchasing several new buses, Wagener said. The fleet currently includes 22 busses — some of which are 35 feet long and some are 40 feet long.

Although they won’t be adding new routes, Wagener said they do plan to purchase several additional busses in the next year and, by April, have three 40-foot busses servicing UW-Eau Claire to accommodate the large number of students.

Willi said they aren’t planning on adding more staff. However, their offices will moved from their current Forest Street location to the new transfer station in order to be more available.

“I’m most excited about being able to provide better service for our customers,” she said. “Moving downtown will be a big help.”

Wagener said the new center will be more user-friendly.

“It will be more resilient and adaptable,” he said. “It’s designed to change with the times.”

There will be an open house in Centennial Hall about the new transfer center Nov. 13 from 6-7:30 p.m. for people who have additional questions or concerns and would like more information regarding the whole project.

Hagmann can be reached at [email protected].