ITHACA, N.Y. –– TCAT has been looking for a new home after outgrowing its current location and focus has now been shifted to the area of Ithaca Tompkins Regional Airport as a likely new location.

Last year, TCAT approached the county legislature’s Planning Committee, citing a lack of space in their current location. According to a press release, “the transit agency has long outgrown its 27-year-old current facility and needs at least 25% more space just to accommodate its present-day operations without accounting for the growth it anticipates in the future.”

TCAT received assistance from Wendel Consultants in their search for a new home, narrowing the final choices to the airport or the now-vacant Vanguard industrial site at 17 Hallwoods Road. The TCAT Board of Directors voted Thursday to settle on the airport area as the best place to start planning the project.

The board has cited a number of reasons for choosing the airport site specifically, including allowing TCAT to build a facility from scratch to its exact specifications, the possibility that certain funding unique to the airport site may be available, the sites’ proximity to Ithaca and the possibility that the airport and TCAT potentially could share some services, such as fueling, to reduce costs.

The project is in the very early stages, and board members can still “re-evaluate their decision if more information comes to light showing that the airport site will not be a good fit for TCAT,” their press release says. TCAT has no estimate of when the project will begin, or how long it could take.

“The board made this decision to give TCAT staff direction to explore the site in further detail. There will be environmental studies, a search for funding, and design,” said Ducson Nguyen, TCAT board chair and 2nd ward alderperson. “There’s much more to do.”

Wendel consultants have estimated the cost of building a new facility at the airport site at $55 million, compared to the cost of renovating the Vanguard site which would be $27 million. Both estimates could increase substantially, according to planning experts.

The project has a large price tag, but Nguyen is confident the bulk of the cost wouldn’t fall on taxpayers.

“It will cost taxpayers more in the cost of “deadheading”: bringing buses to/from the garage to the routes they serve, which are mostly centered in the City of Ithaca,” Nguyen said. “The facility itself will cost an enormous amount of money, but typically a combination of state and federal grants fund these types of buildings.”

Anna Lamb

Anna Lamb is a reporter for the Ithaca Voice. Questions? Story tips? Contact her at alamb@ithacavoice.com