The Columbia Transit System got some good news last week. A large chunk of federal money — more than $2.3 million — has been secured to renovate and expand Wabash Station, the historic Columbia landmark that serves as the main transfer point for city bus lines.
The funding is part of $10 million earmarked for transit programs throughout the state from the 2004 Omnibus Appropriations Bill. Columbia’s share is the biggest on the list.
The city will be responsible for matching 20 percent of the award, or about $475,000, toward the cost of renovation. Ken Koopmans of the Public Works Department said a portion of that money was appropriated in September 2001, but the source for the remainder of the match still has to be determined by the City Council.
For Koopmans, the federal funds have arrived just in time. Wabash Station is still an integral part of Columbia’s bus system, he said, but “it isn’t large enough to accommodate us anymore.”
Improvements to the station will benefit passengers as well as transit workers, said Mark Grindstaff, director of operations for the Columbia Transit System. The expansion will enhance all transportation services, he said, including fixed and commuter bus routes, the para-transit system and taxi services.
While plans for the renovation have not been developed yet, Grindstaff said changes “will be consistent with keeping it a historic building.”
Wabash Station, located at Tenth and Ash streets, was built in 1910 and originally served as a railway station. The city purchased the property in 1977, and two years later it was placed on the National Historic Register. According to the State Historic Preservation Office, in addition to its architectural significance, Wabash Station played a large role in the growth of Columbia.
Koopmans said an additional, connected building will be built on the east side of the original station. Offices from the current location will be moved to the new space, making room for public restrooms and more passenger waiting areas. The funds will also go toward improving an outdoor waiting area and addressing traffic control and parking issues.
Grindstaff added that the improvements would provide better customer amenities through refurbishing the interior of the building. Koopmans said many of the structural elements within the station have not been replaced since their original construction and are in need of repairs.
The building’s historical status means the city will have to work closely with historic preservation experts from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.
“The DNR has to be involved,” Koopmans said. “They will look at our plans and make recommendations.”