As visitors of Wilmington and commuters around the city's train station have known, the arrangement for public transportation and on-site parking had never been ideal.
The Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT) and the Delaware Transit Corporation (DTC), too, recognized this. So, with Wilmington's Biden Station serving as Amtrak's 11th busiest, they began to develop better delivery of passengers to and from such a crucial launch point which would not rely on the infrastructure of yesteryear.
"Back in 2013, we started an effort called 'Wilmington Transit: Moving Forward' that looked to identify ways to improve the transit system in Wilmington," revealed DTC Chief Executive Officer John Sisson. "One of the things that came out of it was the need for a transit hub."
An adjacent area to the downtown train station, on the northeast corner of Front and Walnut streets, was conveniently pegged as the location for the proposed transit center.
"We own the majority of the land we're going to need for that," Sisson shared. "We went out (looking) for a public-private partnership to have someone design, build, and maintain not only a transit center for our buses, but additional parking to support the parking needs around the train station."
The plan was for DTC to have approximately nine bus bays on the ground floor of the parking deck and an area for bus staging.
"We'll be able to move all the buses that we currently have stacking along MLK (boulevard) in front of the station. Those buses will be able to go to this new transit center and provide a better place for our customers to utilize the system."
The hub will also accommodate future electric bus recharging, bus operator facilities, and a public kiosk for ticketing and information.
Since a Budget Truck Rental occupied a surface lot on the property where the transit center would be built, planners even used the opportunity to address the rental vehicle option.
"We want to make sure that car rentals still have a presence around the train station. Whether it's one of the lots we own around the train station, or that (new transit center) lot, we will still have rental cars there."
Another change that would happen in tandem with the construction was the reconfiguration of the surface streets around the train station; specifically, the elimination of the sweeping left turn at East Front Street, from inbound MLK Boulevard.
"It creates a five point intersection that actually is really inefficient from a traffic signal standpoint," Sisson acknowledged.
To correct this, DelDOT had already begun a separate designcreate a double left turn for motorists from MLK Boulevard onto North Walnut Street.
There would be no connection, however, either via a pedestrian walkway over the street, or otherwise, from the new transit center to the existing depot.
"If you do connect to the train station, you bring people into a platform that's not used by the trains," illustrated Sisson. "There really wasn't a cost benefit to making that connection."
Not to be overlooked, cost really was the linchpin of the endeavor. That is, by utilizing the private partner, which would assume the expense of construction and then operate the new facility by way of a lease, the burden to the public would be minimal.
"We're excited to get something done at very little cost to the taxpayer."
A bid from one private developer, which previously met the qualifications of DelDOT and DTC, would be submitting a bid with proposal by March 7, 2017.