The TCAT Board of Directors voted Thurs., Dec. 5, at its regularly scheduled meeting to place its focus on the Ithaca Tompkins Regional Airport area as the location of its new facility.
Following a site selection report from Wendel consultants, the final choice among seven locations was down to either the airport area at Warren and Cherry roads or the now-vacant Vanguard industrial site at 17 Hallwoods Road.
Board members said they favored the airport site for a number of reasons, with some noting that the longer they delay in making a decision the more costly the project will become.
Other reasons cited in the resolutions they approved include:
- The airport site allows TCAT to build a facility from scratch to its exact specifications.
- It is possible that certain funding unique to the airport site may be available.
- The airport site is closer to Ithaca than the Vanguard site, resulting in a savings of mileage and money.
Additionally, board members said, the airport and TCAT potentially could share some services, such as fueling, to reduce costs.
Though they tentatively settled on the airport location, board members can still re-evaluate their decision if more information comes to light showing that the airport site will not be a good fit for TCAT.
Over the past year with the assistance of Wendel consultants, TCAT looked at about a dozen potential sites, including its existing Willow Ave. location, which would need to be expanded. For the past five or so years, TCAT has been exploring possibilities to either move to a new location or to enlarge its current Willow Ave. facility, located in the Cayuga Lake Waterfront District. The transit agency has long outgrown its 27-year-old current facility and needs at least 25 percent more space just to accommodate its present-day operations without accounting for the growth it anticipates in the future.
Wendel estimated the cost of building a new facility at the airport site at $55 million, compared to the cost of renovating the Vanguard site the consultant estimated at $27 million, both with the caveat from planning experts that those costs could increase substantially.
Board members said they were worried about the huge cost no matter which site made the final cut, as well as the additional operational or travel costs from relocating farther from the city.
If the plan comes to fruition, TCAT Board Chairman Ducson Nguyen said that the bulk of the project would be funded by the Federal Transit Administration as with any significant transit capital projects. State and local funds would pay for the project to a lesser extent.
Other locations that were short listed for consideration among the dozen sites include the Chain Works District, former home to Morse Chain and the Emerson Power Transmission on Aurora Road; the former Crispell Garage on Slateverille Road; the NYSEG building on NYS Route 13; and the Southwest Park site behind Walmart.