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City officials, design firms for Carbondale transit hub seek public input
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Carbondale

City officials, design firms for Carbondale transit hub seek public input

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CARBONDALE — City officials are seeking design input for the long-awaited Southern Illinois Multi Modal Station, or SIMMS, in the downtown area. 

A public meeting is set from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday, July 29, in Room 112 of the Civic Center, 200 S. Illinois Ave.

At the meeting, members of the public will have opportunities to engage with consultants and offer feedback regarding the final design of the SIMMS hub, which will be built in the current Amtrak station location. 

The station will ultimately be a central location for three regional transit services: Rides Mass Transit, South Central Transit and Shawnee Mass Transit, which cover about 30 counties in Southern Illinois. The station also will serve Amtrak, Greyhound, Saluki Express and Jackson County Mass Transit. The station is part of IDOT’s goal to establish a statewide transit system.

Mark Bollmann, project manager for the construction and design of SIMMS, told The Southern recently that the city remains in the "early stages" of design. Just two months ago, the city hired two Carbondale firms — Design Works and hmb Architects LLC — to design the transport hub. 

Bollmann said the public's input and engagement is critical at this stage, particularly if residents have questions, concerns and suggestions for traffic flow. 

"We're very confined on our space availability, it's a narrow corridor, it's very tight," Bollman said. 

Amtrak users, Carbondale residents and the general public can also weigh in on aesthetics, layout and the overall look and design. 

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This public hearing is specifically designed for public feedback — and any additional public hearings will be likely be informative in nature with a presentation on a final design, Bollmann added. 

City officials said earlier this year that a preliminary design is expected to be available for review by the Carbondale City Council in late 2021. 

The project budget is about $17.3 million, mostly funded by federal and state dollars. In November 2019, the city was awarded a $13.9 million dollar grant for the design and construction of this project through the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development, or BUILD, program. And, in December 2020, the IDOT Transit Improvement Program contributed an additional $2.8 million dollars towards the project. 

The new transportation center will be constructed in downtown Carbondale on the east side of South Illinois Avenue. City leaders expect construction to begin in fall 2022. 

Bollman said the plan is to have the SIMMS hub substantially completed by April of 2024, when thousands are expected to flock to Carbondale and SIU to watch the solar eclipse — and a good amount of visitors may take public transportation. 

"We'd love to have that open in time," Bollmann said.  

Planning for the Southern Illinois Multi Modal Station project, also called SIMMS, began in 2013, as part of the city’s long-range vision. The city began working with IDOT to plan for the project in 2015.

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Wednesday morning expressed support for President Joe Biden's proposal to allow Americans to attend two years of community college for free. Biden was expected to announce the measure as part of a sweeping "family plan" during a nationally televised address Wednesday night. Pritzker was asked about the proposal during a news conference at Heartland Community College in Normal, where he was announcing the development of a new $7.5 million electric vehicle workforce training program.

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