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Carbondale looks forward to new transit facility

CARBONDALE (WSIL) — The announcement of a new multi-modal transit facility coming to southern Illinois has business leaders excited. The City of Carbondale expects to see a boost in its economy both during construction– and after– all while improving its transportation opportunities.

For the past three years city leaders in Carbondale have worked toward Wednesday’s announcement: grant funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation to build a multi-modal transit facility.

The nearly $14 million grant will fund design and construction with additional funding coming from the city itself to complete the project.

City Manager Gary Williams said the project is more than just a new train station, it improves rural services for 30 counties across southern Illinois. Three different bus services will use the new hub, such as RIDES and Saluki Express.

"The real benefit of this station is by co-locating all of those users in one central spot to transfer passengers more efficiently, it will make the entire system better, it will make it faster, more efficient, more reliable," said Williams. "And it will really move this whole rural area into a fixed-route service, which is pretty unique for a rural part of the country."

Groundbreaking will most likely take place in early 2021, said Williams, adding that the economic benefits are not yet calculated, but its construction is part of the city’s strategic goals.

"It fills a major hole in our downtown," said Williams. "One of the things we’re really excited about is it’s directly across the street from a new hotel, which is quickly becoming, maybe the busiest hotel in Carbondale, so we see a lot of tourism opportunities, not just for Carbondale, but the area."

Executive director of Carbondale Tourism, Jordan Wren agrees. His office works toward bringing people to Carbondale and staying in town to eat, sleep, and play.

"Just the fact that it will bring more visitors here and an opportunity for you to get around easier in our town, that’s just a big plus for us," said Wren.

Several business owners said they look forward to the economic benefits such a large project will bring to downtown. Pagliai’s Pizza owner Melissa Parsons said just adding the hotel has helped, and she’s looking forward to the new station.

"People have a nice place to stay and it’s brought a lot of traffic here, as well, so it’s been good. So I think that will be an added asset as well," said Parsons.

Carbondale will spend the next year in the design stage with plans for a two-story parking garage, retail and cafe spaces and even a day care center.

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