By JOHN FLOWERS
MIDDLEBURY — Efforts by Addison County Transit Resources (ACTR) to build a new headquarters off Creek Road got a huge boost in the form of a $2.85 million earmark through the Omnibus Appropriation Bill of 2009 signed on Wednesday by President Barack Obama.
U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., secured the grant for ACTR, the county’s public transportation agency that has already won conditional approval from the Middlebury Development Review Board to build a 13,000-square foot maintenance and administrative facility on state-owned land at 341 Creek Road.
“It does feel really good,” ACTR Executive Director James Moulton said of news of the $2.85 million in federal funds, which will cover a substantial chunk of the estimated $4.2 million project. “Obviously, we feel this project is very important to what we do, which is providing efficient and effective public transportation.”
ACTR currently operates out of 1,000 square feet of rented space in the Helping Overcome Poverty’s Effects (HOPE) Community Services Center off Boardman Street. ACTR must park most of its 13 vehicles off-site, on the edge of a field loaned by the Foster Brothers Farm.
The current office space is shared by nine staffers, 12 paid drivers and around 30 volunteer drivers.
ACTR delivers a variety of public transportation services, including the Middlebury In-town Shuttle, the Tri-Town Shuttle (linking Bristol, Middlebury and Vergennes) and the Snow Bowl run. The organization is also a partner in bus runs from Middlebury into adjacent Rutland and Chittenden counties.
ACTR buses provided almost 55,000 rides from July 1, 2008, through last month. That’s up 6.4 percent compared to July 1, 2007, through February of last year, according to Moulton.
Around 8,000 square feet of space in ACTR’s new building will be set aside for office space, with the balance earmarked for a maintenance bay for up to six vehicles.
Moulton said ACTR, with Leahy’s help, filed a detailed application for funding that received a lot of scrutiny during a rigorous budgeting process in this recessionary economy.
It’s a project that ultimately passed the budget test, Leahy noted through a press release.
“This new facility will help ACTR meet the growing demand for public transit in Addison County,” Leahy said. “Reliable transit service knits a community more closely together. Transit options improve access to the workplace and for family obligations and shopping needs. ACTR has built a tremendous amount of community support around this project, and I am pleased that this work now will be able to move forward with this significant federal investment.”
Moulton said he hopes construction on the new ACTR headquarters can begin next year. In the meantime, ACTR officials will raise the balance of funds needed to cover project costs.