Feb 21, 2024 - News

Des Moines transit unveils plans for a new $110 million campus

A rendering of a proposed DART maintenance facility.

Rendering: Substance architecture, courtesy of DART

Des Moines Area Regional Transit Authority (DART) would relocate its downtown operations and maintenance facilities to a 38-acre site near Pleasant Hill under a proposal going before the City Council next month.

Why it matters: The project's estimated cost is $110 million — more than 60% higher than an earlier proposal at a different site.

  • But it's still cheaper for local governments than renovating the current 11-acre downtown location because federal grants will pay a projected 80% of the rebuilding costs, Luis Montoya, DART's chief planning officer, tells Axios.

Catch up fast: DART's main facilities building at 1100 Dart Way was built in the 1970s, has been damaged by multiple floods and now requires more than $63 million in upgrades.

  • Federal Transit Administration officials are encouraging DART's commission to relocate due to facility limitations.

State of play: A $68 million plan proposed about three years ago at the former Chesterfield School site was abandoned after federal regulators noted the location is believed to be part of an ancient village.

  • No new archeological discoveries have been made since DART identified the site but agency officials nonetheless determined it would be best to find a different location, Montoya says.

Driving the news: DART would pay just over $3.9 million for a city-owned property near the Southeast Connector if approved at a public hearing on March 4.

The intrigue: The location was identified for a PDM Precast expansion project in 2019, prior to the company deciding to instead expand its existing DSM production plant site.

Details: The first nearly $35 million construction phase will include a maintenance garage and is fully funded, largely from a federal grant and money DART officials have saved.

  • Construction could begin as early as this summer and take about 18 months to complete.
  • A storage barn and administrative building would be included in subsequent phases with timelines largely depending on additional federal allocations, Montoya says.

What we're watching: The project is moving forward as DART users face possible cuts to routes.

Of note: The new campus project would be paid by DART's capital budget, which consists largely of federal grants.

  • The transit's separate operating budget, which is primarily paid for by property tax dollars, is the subject of the current service reduction considerations.
A photo of vacant land
This undeveloped site across the street from Helena Industries in the 3500 block of Vandalia Road in Des Moines could be the location for DART's new facilities campus. Photo: Google Earth
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