WATA Considers Options for New Administration, Maintenance Building

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A WATA bus
A WATA bus

The Williamsburg Area Transit Authority got a peek Wednesday at options for revamping its operations, maintenance and administration center located off Pocahontas Trail.

WATA has been exploring what kind of building best meets its current needs and predicted future growth for operating its regional bus network and keeping its vehicles on the road.

Since 2005, it has used a site off Pocahontas Trail near Riverside Doctors’ Hospital.

During a board meeting Wednesday, Senior Transportation Planner Jennifer Ray with Johnson, Mirmiran and Thompson presented the board with four options for the future — three involve staying at the Pocahontas Trail location, while the fourth would involve building a new building at Busch Industrial Park in Upper York County.

The board decided the Busch Industrial Park site was cost prohibitive, as is a plan to demolish the existing building and build an all-new structure at the current site.

Ray’s firm will now finish a study into WATA’s future building needs, focusing on two options for the building’s future — renovating the existing building or converting the existing building into a space solely for maintenance while building a new building for administration and operations.

“I tend to stay with staying at the current location,” said Williamsburg Assistant City Manager Jodi Miller, a member of WATA’s board. “It makes a whole lot of sense based on the investment that has already been made.”

WATA has operated from the Colonial Williamsburg-owned site on Pocahontas Trail since 2005.  In addition to providing a bus service throughout Williamsburg, James City County and Upper York County, it also oversees Colonial Williamsburg’s buses.

Ray said her firm has determined WATA has growing paratransit needs, while the size of the regular bus fleet has not kept pace with projections formulated in 2010. During the most recent fiscal year — which ran from July 1, 2014, through June — paratransit ridership almost doubled, climbing to 7,393 from 4,340 during the prior fiscal year.

Ray also discussed feedback her firm has received from WATA so far. Among the most frequent comments was “sticker shock” at the estimated $14.2 million price tag for revamping the existing site and the estimated $19.7 million to build a new building in Busch Industrial Park.

WATA wants the new building to accommodate its maintenance, operations and administration offices for decades. It has already secured about $9 million for construction starting in 2017 from the Hampton Roads Transportation Planning Organization, a group of regional leaders with purse string power over state dollars allocated to transportation improvements in Hampton Roads.

Construction on any improvements to the existing WATA site would start in 2017 at the earliest. Ray’s firm will present a final report detailing the two options approved by the WATA board later this year.