State

New transit depot OK'd

TURLOCK — The City Council gave the go-ahead Tuesday night to build a new bus depot using $1.5 million in federal stimulus money awarded to the city last week.

The city will install six bus shelters at West Hawkeye Avenue and North Golden State Boulevard, across the street from the current depot, which moved from downtown in August 2007.

Resident Patrick Noda appealed the city Planning Commission's June 4 approval of the proposed site, which brought the plan before the City Council on Tuesday.

Mayor John Lazar and council members Kurt Spycher and Amy Bublak voted to deny Noda's appeal. Councilwoman Mary Jackson abstained, and Councilman Ted Howze was absent.

Noda collected nearly 1,000 signatures on a petition in protest of the new depot's location and asking for it to be relocated to the downtown area. Others spoke about a desire for more direct routes to Emanuel Medical Center and from California State University, Stanislaus, to the downtown area.

"I believe that the council should consider the wishes of the people," Noda said.

Officials said they plan to revisit bus routes within two months.

Lazar said the hub would serve a "main artery of our town," given its close proximity to the university and the Monte Vista Crossings shopping center. Staff members said students are the largest demographic among riders.

City Hall moved the depot from downtown to make it "easier and safer" for riders to board, assistant planner Katie Melson said in a report, because passengers were running across busy Golden State Boulevard to catch transfers. The city's 40-foot buses "were having a hard time maneuvering" downtown, breaking windows on passing vehicles, Melson said.

Although the depot would not be downtown, "the bus makes stops in the downtown area," Melson added.

Lazar, who lobbied for the federal money during a January visit to Washington, D.C., said Turlock was the San Joaquin Valley's only recipient of money in the latest round of stimulus transit grants. Federal officials Friday announced 58 grants amounting to $473 million throughout the United States.

The council did not discuss a backup plan to use the money for a bus dispatch office, prepared by City Hall in case the council sided with Noda.

The Bus Line Service of Turlock carries about 160,000 riders a year, according to a recent transit study.

Bee staff writer Merrill Balassone can be reached at mbalassone@modbee.com or 578-2337.

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