Standing in the 67-year-old “bus barn” on Albert Street and 6th Avenue, Regina Mayor Michael Fougere thanked both the federal and provincial government for coming through with the funding to build a new transit maintenance facility.
Money to replace the small, aging building has been at the top of Fougere’s wish list for infrastructure for a while. He said the project is long past due, pointing out the current building dates back to the days of trolley cars in 1949. He said there is no room and it’s not possible to maintain new modern buses, like articulated buses in the future in the current facility.
On Friday morning the mayor was joined by Regina MP and Federal Minister of Public Safety, Ralph Goodale, along with provincial Government Relations Minister Jim Reiter, to announce joint funding for the $30,100,000 transit facility. The federal and provincial governments will each chip in $9,716,666 while the city pays the remainder of $10,666,668.
“This is the biggest priority for us and we see this as being a way to enhance transit service across our city – have better bussing, articulated buses and a growing fleet and we simply can’t house it in this facility so we need a new building,” Fougere said.
The 60,000 square foot maintenance facility will be adjacent to the transit operations centre that houses the bus fleet on Winnipeg Street.
“If you can centralize and make it more efficient, you’re obviously going to be spending more time actually driving a bus and driving people around versus going in between buildings,” Fougere commented.
The city estimates having the maintenance facility in the same location as the operations centre will save more than 3,000 hours per year spent driving buses back and forth and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The city originally applied for the money to replace the transit facility under the Conservative government’s Building Canada Fund. When the Liberal government took power, it decided to speed up the process to roll out that money for infrastructure projects.
“We’re very pleased that the federal government is acting – not just saying things, they’re actually rolling out capital for infrastructure, and that’s a very good thing to see happen here,” Fougere said. “We’re not going to be missing another construction year, they’re actually allocating resources to municipalities across the country now, so that’s very good news for everyone.”
Fougere noted that bus ridership is on an upward trend in Regina, and he says improving service with things like the University bus pass will hopefully encourage more people to use transit.
Goodale said investing in public municipal infrastructure like this transit facility is the most cost-effective way to drive economic growth across Canada.
“By making really smart investments in infrastructure, rather than just willy-nilly all over the place, you also add in a very substantial way to the quality of life of local communities,” he said.
Goodale said the current transit maintenance facility is obviously past its best-before date and this new facility will hopefully serve the growing needs of the community into the future. He added that anything to improve public transit is a win-win for everyone because it is a cost-effective way to get around that is also better for the environment.
When asked if Regina can expect to see more federal money in the coming years for other major infrastructure projects, Goodale smiled and answered “absolutely, yes”.