BOURBONNAIS — After years of budgetary starts and stops, it appears the long-anticipated Kankakee Metro Centre bus station will be built in 2021.

The complex will be located on East Chestnut Street between the 300 blocks of North Schuyler and North Dearborn avenues.

The project is expected to cost $4 million, with $1.6 million coming from the state of Illinois and another $2.4 million from the federal government.

The project was anticipated to be built in two phases, but due to the $2.2 trillion federal CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Act), the entire funding allotment came through, meaning the project could be completed in only one phase, said Siron Sims, managing director of the River Valley Metro Mass Transit District.

The facility will feature covered areas for those waiting for buses at the downtown transfer station. The main benefit to the center will be buses will no longer be required to park on Chestnut Street to pick up riders, making for a much safer process.

The location will be have ample lighting, heated sidewalks under the covered area, security cameras and seating. There will be a restroom area, but only for metro bus employees, Sims noted.

“This will be a great facility,” Sims said. “This district has been working on this for some 16 years. Rob Hoffmann [recently retired managing director] was trying to get this done for years. He completed so much of the groundwork.

“Now I’m going to push it through and get it done. This is going to be big.”

The project is expected to go for contractor bids soon and the goal is to have the project awarded in the fall. Sims said construction would likely not begin until the start of the 2021 construction year. The goal is to have the project completed within 2021.

Sims said final paperwork and the full design plan by Tria Architecture of Burr Ridge — the company which designed the Manteno Transfer Center — is being submitted to the Illinois Department of Transportation. Once IDOT completes its review, it will prepare the bid package. The goal is to have the bid specifications available to construction companies by late fall to early winter.

River Valley Metro in the just-completed fiscal year 2020 provided 607,803 rides. That total is 10.5 percent below the 679,706 rides provided in the 2019 fiscal year, but, of course, the COVID-19 pandemic which led to a nationwide stay-at-home restrictions in March, placed great limitations on the system.

The system’s top year was the 2015 fiscal year when 993,018 rides were provided.

Due to social-distancing restrictions, ridership is limited on the buses. The large buses now have capacity for only 12.

Like everyone else, the sooner life can return to some type of normalcy, Sims said bus ridership numbers should soar.

“We’re so anxious to get this going,” Sims said. “This will be so great for our riders and our system.”

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