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PSTA seeks property to build bus station

New shelters, restrooms and an information booth would be built just a few dozen yards from Central Plaza station's current site.

By JON WILSON

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 3, 2000


ST. PETERSBURG -- More routes, more frequent service and smoother traffic is expected when the county bus company expands one of its busy transfer stops and moves it off Central Avenue.

A new Central Plaza station could be completed a year from now "if everything goes smoothly," said Mike Siebel, planning director for the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority.

The stops, which currently can serve about four buses at a time, aren't going far -- just a few dozen yards, in fact -- but they will be out of the traffic from one of the city's major avenues.

Besides bus loading and unloading points, shelters, restrooms and an information booth would be built on 32nd Street S between Central and First avenues. Slots will be built for up to 12 buses, Siebel said.

PSTA is in the process of buying a rectangular, 1.2-acre tract that straddles 32nd Street and lies between a Popeye's restaurant and the Huntington Bank.

A deposit has been made on the purchase price of $400,000, Siebel said, and the purchase should be complete by summer's end.

The tract, which is vacant, is being purchased from Amned, which Siebel said is a Netherlands corporation that bought the property a decade or more ago.

About $2.5-million in federal grant money is available for the building phase of the project, but Siebel said he doesn't expect that much will be needed.

The Central Plaza project benefited to some degree when a proposed Clearwater terminal with a parking garage and retail shops unraveled after land acquisition fell through.

Plans now call for a scaled-down Clearwater terminal, which will not require all of the $5-million set aside for the original project.

The St. Petersburg facility "will mean more routes, more frequency" of service, Siebel said, and an end to buses stopped on Central.

That factor is expected to benefit traffic flow, although two-way Central is not as heavily used by east-west motorists as First avenues N and S, which are one way in opposite directions and are favored by drivers going in and out of downtown.

The transfer point is known in government jargon as an "intermodal transportation facility" because it aims at integrating methods of getting around -- by auto, bus and foot.

It's a timely project because a new YMCA building will be built on First Avenue S across from the bus stops and is expected to generate more traffic in the area and perhaps even encourage new development, officials say.

"This will help out, all in all, regardless of what new businesses come," Siebel said.

Virtually no traffic uses the one-block strip of 32nd Avenue at Central Plaza because it is merely a connector between Central and First Avenue S.

In fact, the city already has vacated the street once when a developer proposed in the 1980s a mall project that never got off the ground, said city planner Dave Goodwin.

The PSTA's project will be subject to scrutiny by city officials, Goodwin said.

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