Bus station sites still under consideration

ALBANY -- As members of the Federal Transit Administration and the Georgia Department of Transportation work to hammer out a deal on part of a proposed multimodal bus station site for downtown Albany, city leaders say that other locations are still up for consideration.

The FTA has notified GDOT that a separate environmental assessment is needed for the planned phase II of a $9 million project behind the headquarters of the Albany Fire Department.

That assessment likely could not be completed before a Dec. 1 deadline to obtain federal stimulus money, city officials say.

A meeting between FTA and GDOT officials Thursday was supposed to focus on projects like the Albany station that are in limbo, but the results of that discussion have yet to be communicated to city leaders.

Meanwhile, city officials say that should that development not pan out in its current location, other sites up for consideration are still on the table, including a possible expansion of the transit center on West Oglethorpe Boulevard.

The city initially pulled away from that project because of a lack of space on that block for expansion, but some within the city have received word that owner Orlando Rambo may now be in a position to broker a deal on the Heritage Bank location, which would allow for more development.

"There are other sites still on the table," Assistant City Manager Wes Smith said Friday. "We'd have to take a close look should something happen to our current plans, but at this point, nothing is off the table."

The plans for the multimodal transit station came under fire when property owner John Sherman, whose brother long held a powerful position in the federal government with the Department of the Interior, wrote a letter to Transportation Director Ray LaHood and others in the federal government criticizing the project.

Smith said that despite the development regarding the environmental assessment, Phase 1 of the project still could go forward using millions in stimulus money.