Work finally gets underway on CTA Transit Center in Gulfport

Updated: Jul. 5, 2018 at 3:36 PM CDT
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GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Work to the turn the old Harrison County Library in downtown Gulfport into a modern public transit center is finally getting started.

The project ties into the synergy created by the $90 million Mississippi Aquarium. The two will change the landscape in the area. Roy Anderson Corporation has been awarded the bid to convert the library into a nearly $10 million mass transit facility.

The old library on 20th Avenue and Highway 90, was severally damaged by Hurricane Katrina. It will have a second chance at life with Coast Transit Authority, the company in charge of running the day-to-day operations of the transit center.

A combination of funding mechanisms is fueling this initial work and the entire project. "Total price tag for this project is 9.8 million dollars. The city of Gulfport donated the property and the lease worth 1.6 million. Most of the money is coming from the federal government and CTA is contributing $150,000," said CTA Director Kevin Coggins.

After Katrina, there was a debate over whether to demolish or save the historic building. A decision to salvage it was made. It was deemed structurally sound and the CTA Transit Center concept was born.

The initial construction work is designed to prep and recycle the structure. "We taking apart what's going to be replaced and re salvaging the historic elements, mainly tile work on the exterior and some inside that we'll save and re purpose," according to Coggins.

The CTA parking Garage on 15th street across from the federal courthouse has been under utilized over the years. The plan is to make it a key component in this project. "We'll be taking care of the cars in the parking and garage. We'll also be taking care of all the charter buses and school buses coming into the aquarium. This will be our new bus operation center," Coggins said.

As for the floor plan, passenger areas will be on the first floor along with restrooms and a small food court. CTA will look for someone to lease the second floor in an effort to defray costs.

The center will have a direct tie in with the Aquarium, slated to open in early 2020. There are also plans for building a walkway that will carry people over Highway 90.

That will be a combination of public safety and convenience with no motor vehicles allowed. It will connect the aquarium with Jones park and the harbor. "It's all about creating alternatives for transportation. They can ride the tram, walk or ride their bike. We anticipate most of the people will be walking," said Coggins.

The walkway will cost $9.8 million, yet only $2.6 million has been secured at this point. CTA is trying to tap into more federal funding to raise the total amount.

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