(Rick Hickman / American Press)
Last Modified: Tuesday, December 11, 2012 8:00 PM
Several local officials on Tuesday celebrated the grand opening of the new Transit Center in downtown Lake Charles — a city facility that Mayor Randy Roach said will serve as a major public transportation hub for Southwest Louisiana.
“It marks a major step in the revitalization of this community,” he said.
The 13,000-square-foot facility, on the corner of Ryan and Clarence streets, features eight parking spots for city buses, an eating area, digital signs, a conference room and other amenities.
Roach said the project began in 2008 and was “part of a long-range goal to establish a metropolitan transit program to serve the urban areas of Calcasieu Parish.” The building was boarded up and had not been used for years.
At the time, Roach said officials expected a rise in the need for public transportation throughout Calcasieu Parish. But they didn’t realize that need “would be accelerated as a result of the more than $20 billion in industrial development” within Southwest Louisiana that should begin over the next several months, he said.
Roach said city officials are talking with parish officials to house the parish’s transit operations on the building’s second floor.
He said the building was listed as being in “damaged condition” before Hurricane Rita made landfall in 2005. Now that it has been renovated, he said the Transit Center will have “lasting historical significance” like the old City Hall and the Calcasieu Courthouse.
“What you see here is our commitment to the next generation to continue the legacy that was started two blocks down the road,” Roach said.
City Council President Mark Eckard said the terminal is one of several improvements that will entice people to visit downtown Lake Charles.
“We could’ve just done a normal little building,” he said. “But when you’re trying to showcase an area, you need a beautiful entrance way, and that’s what this is.”
Councilman Marshall Simien said the new facility allows people to wait comfortably for a bus, instead of braving bad weather at the old facility on Bilbo and Broad streets.
The city had $3.5 million budgeted for the terminal and used money from the Federal Transit Administration.
Jeff Kudla was the project’s architect, and the general contractor was Keith DuRousseau, president and owner of Keiland Construction.