Urban recently spoke with Erie Metropolitan Transportation Authority (EMTA) Director Mike Tann about the $70 million Joint Facility, in Erie Pennsylvania. The unique project links state-of-the-art bus maintenance operations with retail, CNG fueling, and community-oriented development. It will help EMTA direct revenue towards expanding transit service to undeserved areas.
The Erie Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s $70 million Joint Facility—the Authority’s first new operations facility in 50 years—pairs improved bus service with urban renewal. Made possible by the largest rezoning in Erie’s history and funds from the FTA, the project consolidates administrative, fueling, and maintenance operations once spread across two locations, onto a 4-block site. Twenty-nine parcels were rezoned in an industrial area dotted with abandoned buildings and next to an active railroad. The complex dovetails with development in the area, including streetscape improvements, restaurants, apartments, and other rehabilitated properties.
“It’s not just about creating a beautiful facility and site in Erie’s center city, it’s about moving transit to all corners of Erie County–that’s what EMTA would like to do in the next 10 years and this project is key.” – Mike Tann, EMTA Director
Completed in 2015, Phase I brought a 61,000-sf state-of-the-art maintenance facility to replace the two, 1960s-era facilities which serviced buses and paratransit vehicles. A 147,000-sf bus storage facility, 2-story administration building, CNG-fueling station, and 3-story parking garage with transit center and retail space are under construction and slated for completion in 2019.
Urban’s Erie office has been instrumental in this project from the programming phase in 2011—with our survey, land development, geotechnical, and environmental services—through design and construction. We provided structural design for bus maintenance and storage facilities, along with demolition, utility, and traffic control plans. Urban is also leading the construction materials testing and inspection team. For Dave Steele, PE, Urban’s project manager, challenges stemmed from the unusual shape of the site and the phased demolition and construction required to maintain EMTA service. “The site doesn’t lend itself well to this type of facility. It’s long, narrow, and rectangular – it just wouldn’t be the ideal choice for anyone constructing this type of project,” said Steele.
To make it work, five stages of demolition and construction were developed and a local street through the site was closed to cars and pedestrians. This allows EMTA to continue operating on parts of the site until the new facilities are ready for occupancy.
Other challenges stemmed from the conditions of EMTA’s former site and the new land acquired – both properties were in use for more than 200 years. “Urban Engineers has probably been the driving force making this aspect of the project as painless as possible. Their team has been here since day one. They made sure that large pockets of historic fill and discovery of underground storage tanks didn’t impact our schedule or project. These issues were handled as seamlessly as possible,” said Mike Tann, EMTA Director
Erie residents have many reasons to be excited about the Joint Facility. Riders will appreciate the cleaner buses that will result from indoor storage and the state-of-the-art bus wash system. Parking and retail appeals to potential transit users and area residents. In addition, the public CNG dispensary on the western end of the facility creates opportunities for a host of potential connected businesses. These community benefits set the Joint Facility apart from other transit facilities of its type.