When it comes to transit, I have said repeatedly that if you build it, they will come. That means more transit riders, and it means more economic development near transit access. And there's no better demonstration of this than the Kent Central Gateway transit center in Portage County, Ohio. I was happy to join Congressman Tim Ryan in downtown Kent to help Mayor Jerry Fiala open the beautiful new multi-modal facility.
In our first round of TIGER grants, we awarded the Portage Area Regional Transportation Authority $20 million to help build a new bus transfer facility in downtown Kent.
The Central Gateway replaces a bus transfer center that was on the Kent State University campus and only offered parking for University permit holders. That facility also lacked separation of automobile and bus traffic, putting rider safety at risk.
The new facility features parking spaces and bicycle storage available to the public. It keeps bus and car traffic separate for improved safety. It boasts indoor and outdoor waiting areas. It provides easy access to the Portage Hike and Bike Trail network. And it offers connections to the nearby cities of Akron, Youngstown, and Cleveland.
But, if you talk to folks around Kent, even before opening, the new transit center did more than just enhance mobility in this northeastern Ohio college town. The $26 million Central Gateway has been the catalyst for more than $100 million in new economic development that includes five major building projects--including a new conference center--that have transformed downtown Kent into a symbol of economic recovery.
This project is exactly what President Obama is talking about when he calls on us to invest in our nation’s infrastructure—because projects like this strengthen our communities, attract businesses and create good jobs that cannot be outsourced.
Construction at the new transit center; photo courtesy Matt Fredmonsky, Patch
As the President said in his State of the Union Address, if you ask any CEO what they need to be competitive, you hear the same thing time and again: modern infrastructure. That includes multi-modal facilities that connect people seamlessly with transportation options that make their lives easier and reduce traffic congestion.
And they need walkable communities that attract the best talent to live and work.
This is exactly the kind of modern infrastructure the next generation demands, too. When Kent State University surveyed its students, a strong majority said they wanted a vibrant downtown. They wanted accessible, walkable streets and neighborhoods with character. They wanted livable communities. Well, that’s exactly what they’re getting.
With projects like this, we can encourage graduates to remain in town to start their careers, and we can inspire a whole new generation of entrepreneurs to set up businesses in downtown Kent.
President Obama has challenged us to prove that there is no better place to do business than the U.S. The new Kent Central Gateway is a terrific start.