The Des Moines Area Regional Transit Authority (DART) is considering a major operational shift by relocating its downtown facilities to a new 38-acre site near Pleasant Hill. This proposal, set to be discussed by the City Council next month, marks a significant development in the region’s transit infrastructure planning.

Why This Matters: With an estimated cost of $110 million, the new project is notably more expensive than previous proposals but offers a financially viable option for local governments, thanks to an expected 80% coverage of rebuilding costs through federal grants, as explained by Luis Montoya, DART’s Chief Planning Officer.

Background: DART’s existing main facilities on Dart Way, constructed in the 1970s and now outdated and flood-damaged, require over $63 million in upgrades. The need for relocation is further supported by recommendations from the Federal Transit Administration, citing the current facility’s limitations.

Previous Plans: A $68 million relocation plan to the former Chesterfield School site was scrapped after it was identified as potentially significant archaeological land. DART’s search for a new site led to the current proposal near the Southeast Connector.

Proposed Site Details: DART is poised to purchase the city-owned property for $3.9 million, contingent on approval in a forthcoming public hearing. This site was initially earmarked for a PDM Precast expansion before the company chose to expand its existing Des Moines plant instead.

Project Phases: The initial construction phase, estimated at nearly $35 million, includes building a maintenance garage and is already fully funded, primarily through federal grants. This phase could kick off as early as this summer and is expected to span 18 months.

Future Developments: Additional phases, including a storage barn and administrative building, will depend on further federal funding. The timeline for these expansions remains uncertain.

Broader Implications: The relocation comes at a time when DART users might face route cuts, with the City Council exploring financial strategies to mitigate a potential 40% reduction in services.

Funding Structure: It’s important to note that the new campus will be financed through DART’s capital budget, which is largely supported by federal grants, separate from the operating budget reliant on property tax revenues currently under scrutiny for potential service cutbacks.