Doors open on transit authority’s new maintenance, operations facility in Turners Falls

By DOMENIC POLI

Staff Writer

Published: 06-08-2023 5:00 PM

TURNERS FALLS — The state transportation secretary was on hand Wednesday morning for a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Franklin Regional Transit Authority’s new maintenance and operations facility, a project that has been years in the making.

Gina Fiandaca joined federal, state and local officials as well as stakeholders from Montague to celebrate the completion of the 28,000-square-foot building on the 5.05-acre lot at 3 Sandy Lane.

“What an amazing facility,” Fiandaca said in the building’s storage area. “This is really what you deserve.”

Fiandaca returned from a job in Austin, Texas, when she was appointed to her position by Gov. Maura Healey in January. She said her experiences have taught her that public transportation anywhere hinges on access and opportunity. She also attempted to reassure everyone present that the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority — the agency responsible for most public transit services in greater Boston — isn’t the Healey administration’s sole focus when it comes to transportation improvements.

State Rep. Natalie Blais, D-Deerfield, looked elated when she took to the podium and thanked federal, state and local officials for making the FRTA’s new facility a reality. She said the project was a difficult one but her constituents will benefit from it greatly.

The new building includes a four-bay vehicle repair garage with new and updated equipment, a modern dispatch area, indoor storage for 26 buses, a dedicated wash bay, and new heating, ventilation and lighting systems. The structure also incorporates features that will allow it to operate more sustainably, and it was designed to exceed current building code energy performance requirements.

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The facility is currently heated with wood pellet boilers, and solar panels will be installed in the coming months to provide renewable energy.

“I’m just going to start by saying, ‘Finally,’” Tina Cote, FRTA’s administrator, said to start the ceremony. “We’ve been working on this for years and years and years.”

FRTA’s current maintenance garage on Deerfield Street in Greenfield, which the transit authority leases, is not ideal for the circulation patterns of the fleet of vehicles, FRTA administrators have explained previously. The new facility, which was estimated to cost around $9.5 million in 2021, was funded by both federal and state grants. The purchase price of the land itself, which was previously owned by the town of Montague, was $125,000.

Cote said it takes a village to raise a child “and doing this job, it isn’t much different.” She thanked all FRTA employees, making specific reference to its drivers, dispatchers and maintenance workers. Cote also said the FRTA is the most rural regional transit authority in Massachusetts.

Peter Butler, regional administrator for the U.S. Department of Transportation, congratulated the FRTA on behalf of U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and commended all involved for getting the new facility “across the finish line.”

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or
413-930-4120.

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