RALEIGH — Local and federal officials toured a construction site Tuesday and congratulated one another for a new Capital Area Transit Operations Center, built with the help of an $11.6 million federal stimulus grant, that supports several hundred jobs and features environmentally sustainable building design.
Two U.S. Department of Transportation officials came down from Washington to tour the $28.6 million CAT center in East Raleigh. It will open in May with a garage and maintenance center for 125 buses. The visit was part of a weeklong push by the Obama administration to promote infrastructure projects across the country financed by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act signed by Obama in February 2009.
"This facility would not have been built without the federal stimulus money," Mayor Charles Meeker said at the 23-acre CAT site on Poole Road. "This building is employing 300 people during construction, so 300 families are benefiting now, and we'll have 200 permanent employees once it starts operation."
Raleigh officials said the CAT center will receive LEED Platinum accreditation, meeting the highest standards for energy efficiency and environmental sustainability set by the U.S. Green Building Council, a nonprofit certification program.
The green design elements include geothermal heating with radiant floor heat to reduce heat loss from open doors in the maintenance bays, and ponds and cisterns to trap stormwater pollution and store rainwater for landscaping irrigation. The offices feature lots of fresh-air ventilation and daylight, with motion sensors to turn off lights in vacant rooms.
David Eatman, the city transit administrator, said the energy savings will repay the added construction cost within seven years.
Raleigh had been searching for several years for money to replace a cramped garage long outgrown by CAT's expanding fleet, now at 90 buses. The new center is built for 125 buses, with expansion room to accommodate up to 200 in the future. The $11.6 million stimulus fund grant was part of $22.3 million in federal money used for the project.
"This LEED-certified facility is creating jobs, lowering energy costs and reducing carbon emissions, all while ensuring that Raleigh can continue to grow and its transportation system can stay strong," said John Porcari, deputy U.S. transportation secretary.
CAT ridership has increased by 80 percent in the past decade, Meeker said, twice the rate of Raleigh's population growth.
Other speakers included U.S. Reps. David Price and Brad Miller, Democrats whose districts include parts of Raleigh, and their former colleague Bob Etheridge, who now has a job with Gov. Bev Perdue overseeing federal stimulus spending in North Carolina.
Republican Rep. Renee Ellmers, who unseated Etheridge in November with a campaign that included criticism of Obama's stimulus program, also represents part of Raleigh. She did not attend and did not respond to a request for comment.
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