The Des Moines Area Regional Transit Authority (DART) announced today that it has received a $6.5 million grant that will allow it to move forward with its proposed $20 million downtown transit hub, which will be located on 1.5 acres of land between Sixth Avenue and Seventh Street just south of Cherry Street.

The grant was from the U.S. Department of Transportation on behalf of the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) and will be coupled with the $4 million DART received as part of the I-JOBS bill in April.

The Business Record reported in May that DART's plans for the new 21,000-square-foot two-story transit hub, which would eliminate the need for the current transit mall on Walnut Street, hinged on receiving FTA funding.

DART spokesman Gunnar Olson said the organization hopes to break ground on the hub by the end of the year. He said the project would be approached in phases, because only about half of the funding is secured at this point.

DART will start with the building aspect of the hub and then move toward building the bus space and the canopy portion of the project.

Olson said that in order to secure the remaining funding, DART will put together applications for more federal grants.

The grant funds must be used to help build capital infrastructure, and cannot be used to assist in paying the cost of daily operations.

DART's desire to move the hub away from Walnut Street stems from the agency's ongoing efforts to improve safety. Many of the pedestrian accidents involving DART buses have occurred in the vicinity of the transit mall. The new facility would also be climate controlled, have public restrooms, contain some staff offices and provide a full customer service center for passengers to get help, find schedules, buy bus passes and get IDs - all amenities the current transit mall lacks.

To read a full story about the proposed transit hub and the benefits DART feels it would provide, go to http://tinyurl.com/darttransithub.