The City of Albany’s proposed $10.7 million bus station, which curiously includes passenger rail accessibility and secretly grew in price more than threefold last year and by another $1.5 million since then, has received federal regulatory approval.
State and federal transportation officials say that project, which is motivated by government rather than a citizens’ initiative, has passed the environmental assessment threshold, a taxpayer-funded process that was doubly costly after being botched by city officials last year.
Public records show that the Federal Transit Administration has notified federal, state and local government officials that the “Finding of No Significant Impact” has been approved and that a memorandum of agreement has been signed.
In 2009, when the city performed the federally mandated environmental assessment on the property, nearby property owners who oppose the bus station’s move requested that the city conduct an archaeological survey. The city denied the request; but when the city falsified documentation to make its case for a new center to be built downtown, the federal government pulled its “stimulus” funding. But the city and state continue to pursue federal funding for the project, claiming that an environmental assessment drafted in January 2011 was performed above-board this time.
Public records show that federal funding was pulled because the city and state failed to follow the procedures outlined in the applicable environmental regulations and had obtained federal funding based upon an inadequate and flawed environmental assessment. In addition to environmental regulations, the project hadn’t passed National Historic Preservation Act muster, either, as adjacent property includes a structure that was built in 1885.
The bus transfer facility, touted as a “multimodal” facility that will accommodate high-speed rail transportation although none is planned for the area, is being planned in Sandy Bottom north of the Dougherty County Judicial Building, south of Roosevelt Boulevard, and west of Washington Avenue. It would replace the city transit transfer facility on West Oglethorpe Boulevard.
Although city officials say that it’s a state project and state officials claim it’s a city project, and despite it not being identified as being among the community’s transportation needs, the proposed bus station has grown from $2.3 million to $10.7 million as federal “stimulus” funding became available.
Meanwhile, the public’s concerns about the bus station project not only were ignored during the approval process, no citizens advocated for the project and officials falsely claimed in the assessment that no public comments were received, records show. Also, state and local transportation officials erroneously claimed that a transportation facility would not be on property severely prone to flooding, public records show.