WRTA dedicates $1.1M to interior improvements over next 6 months

By Ashley Luthern



Long-awaited repairs are coming to the Western Reserve Transit Authority’s downtown Federal Station.

That’s good news for Andrea Vega and Danielle Kleine, two high school students who use WRTA to get to class at Summit Academy Secondary School on the city’s South Side.

“They need better bathrooms here,” Vega said while waiting for a bus downtown. Pipes show through holes in the wall, and the icon on the women’s restroom door is missing a head.

Vega and Kleine said they also use WRTA to go shopping and visit friends, transferring buses at the downtown station, where the ceiling is stained and the floor tiles are scuffed.

“It has to be cleaner,” Vega said. “I wish they would build a whole new building.”

It won’t be a new building, but interior renovations will be extensive and include repairs to the restrooms, said James Ferraro, WRTA executive director.

Ferraro said WRTA combined two years’ worth of federal grants to use at Federal Station. A total of $4.48 million in improvements are under way with $1.1 million dedicated for interior work.

“Federal Station has been a sore spot,” Ferraro said.

WRTA was heavily criticized in 2010 when it used federal stimulus money to expand its administrative offices on Mahoning Avenue. The expansion cost about $1.2 million and prompted complaints from riders who wanted the money spent downtown.

Repairs to exterior parking lots and the roof already have been completed, Ferraro said.

Matthew Kotanchek, WRTA maintenance director, said grants required a 20 percent local match. The transit authority will pay about $100,000 in its share for the interior work, he said.

WRTA plans to seek bids for the work within the next three months and have the entire project wrapped six months from now, Kotanchek said.

WRTA has hired architectural firm DLZ of Cuyahoga Falls and accepted the firm’s design proposal, which is still in a preliminary phase. WRTA will pay DLZ 11 percent of the total project cost, which will be finalized after a contract is awarded for the construction.

The plan calls for separate WRTA and Greyhound ticket counters and a central security guard station in the center of the lobby.

“We want security out in plain sight. We want a secure place for our patrons,” Kotanchek said.

The walls will be painted, a new ceiling installed and floor tiles will be replaced with a resin material that will be easier to clean. A new area to store sweepers and scrubbers will enable the equipment to be kept on site instead of at the Mahoning Avenue offices.

“We’ll be spending more time downtown, and we’re trying to keep it clean,” Ferraro said.

It’s been difficult for WRTA to keep up with repairs and cleaning, particularly in the restrooms, which are targets for vandals, Ferraro said.

He said a future call center is planned to accommodate about four WRTA employees who schedule Dial-A-Rides, which operates like a taxi service. Riders call ahead and schedule pickup times and locations, and WRTA sends vans to provide curb-to-curb service.

Ferraro has said that service will be expanding thanks to passage of a 0.25-percent sales-tax renewal Nov. 6. The transit authority relies on sales-tax revenue for about 70 percent of its annual budget, which was $10.7 million in 2012, and collected sales-tax revenues of $6.9 million in 2010 and $7.5 million in 2011.

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