No longer just a "shovel ready" project, workers broke ground on Kearney's new "RYDE" System public bus garage on Tuesday.
3.8 million federal dollars, all stemming from the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act "stimulus," is now being spent to build the new garage and "RYDE" administrative offices at 11th Street and "H" Avenue.
Thus far Kearney's 16 RYDE buses have been stored outdoors. RYDE staff members say that's rough on both buses and drivers.
"We've had them setting outside, the buses, and it's a little rough on them. I know I wouldn't like setting outside all night," commented RYDE bus driver Don Wiseman.
Staff members say the new climate controlled garage will reduce preparation time by 20 minutes or more per bus during the winter.
"The best thing is our drivers don't have to spend that time to melt the bus, to scrape ice, and all those sorts of things. They'll be able to get in the bus, and it's ready to go to their first pickup," said RYDE Transportation Director Charles McGraw.
Officials say the RYDE system helps keep Kearney's economy rolling, delivering shoppers to 2nd Avenue retail destinations, and patients to hospitals and clinics, among other destinations.
"We do about 425 boardings here in Kearney a day, they're going to jobs, they're going to work programs," said Charles McGraw.
Many of the federal dollars will go to what RYDE staff members say are the over 100 construction workers who will be employed in some phase of the new garage project.
The new garage is scheduled to be completed in May of 2013. To avoid the arctic winter chill, some say, the sooner, the better.
"That'd be great if we could have just got it in a hair quicker, we could've been okay for this year. We're gonna love it," bus driver Don Wiseman opined.