With smiles, cheers and playful tossing of sandy soil in the direction of a photographer, Orange County, state and Pine Hills leaders broke ground on a long-awaited bus transfer station Monday.
Once completed, the facility will have Lynx’s signature swooping roof, a covered waiting area and eight bays for buses to park at. County leaders hope its arrival will lead to easier commutes and shorter commute times for community members, some of which can run three hours in each direction.
“I think safety is the top priority, but a better travel time and our passenger experience [are also factors],” Lynx CEO Tiffany Hawkins said.
Construction is expected to end by the end of 2024. Two bus lines are already scheduled to move over, but there are plans to add new lines to increase connectivity for riders in the area.
The project is about more than buses, though. Road and traffic management improvements will also be made, and a multi-purpose path will be extended across Silver Star to help bicycle riders access the facility.
In the future, County Mayor Jerry Demings said he hopes Sunrail will also stop at the site.
“That will be something that can’t happen without a public private partnership that will require significant dollars to make that a reality for all of us,” he said, setting expectations. “But that is the hope of the future.”
For their part, Pine Hills community leaders pointed out that Evans High School was one block away, and said they believed the station would help give the community a hub to kick off a new era of growth.
“It’s a huge investment in Pine Hills. It means that businesses will come in to our community, because young because people need to get to work,” Community Council President Sandra Famti-Hall said. “It’s a long time coming.”