The San Luis Obispo Regional Transit Authority is almost ready to start construction on a new $31 million headquarters on vacant land on SLO’s Elks Lane. Rendering courtesy SLORTA

Work is progressing on a new headquarters for the countywide bus agency, with a recent action by County Supervisors the final hurdle toward financing construction of the $31 million overall project.

Geoff Straw, the executive director of the San Luis Obispo Regional Transit Authority or SLORTA, said Supervisors’ support for borrowing some $25 million for the new HQ was one of the final actions needed to finance the new facility.

Straw said the SLORTA along with Community Action Partnership of SLO, a non-profit organization running programs for the homeless among many other services, had purchased a large property on Prado Lane in San Luis Obispo.

CAPSLO along with the County and Homeless Coalition built the “40 Prado” homeless shelter and services facility, completed in September 2018, and Straw said they’ve been working on RTA’s new facility next door for some 9 years.

He said they’ve been going through the environmental review and permitting process with the City of SLO’s planning department, and completed permitting for the project last summer.

The agency went out for bids in March and Straw said they will likely award a construction contract May 6 when the RTA board meets to decide on the final funding scheme.

The RTA got two bids for the job — Specialty Construction Inc., at $18.3M and Newton Const., at $17.2M. Both companies are from San Luis Obispo.

The project involves construction of a single-story, 28,650 square foot bus maintenance facility with over 2,600 s.f. of mezzanine/equipment platform located on a 6.44-acre site at 253 Elks Ln., San Luis Obispo, according to a project description posted on RTA’s website (see: slorta.org).

The building would accommodate operations, administration and maintenance functions. There’s also a bus parking area with an overhead canopy, and includes “offsite improvements, specifically the ‘T-intersection’ for future Elks Lane realignment.”

Under the project schedule, bidding started March 5, and bids were opened April 21. The construction contract is slated to be awarded on May 6, with the start of construction in late May or early June. Completion is scheduled for December 2021.

Straw said they’ve already spent more than $6M on the project getting it to this point and needed to borrow up to $25M more to finish it. But as a “joint powers authority” with no taxing powers, the RTA is unable to issue municipal bonds or go into debt without first gaining the approval of County Supervisors, which they did April 21.

RTA is a JPA amongst the County and all seven incorporated cities in SLO County. It runs the South County Transit and the Paso Express bus systems as well as the big RTA buses that crisscross the County multiple times a day and make up the heart of the public transportation system in SLO County.

Currently, Straw said, RTA’s headquarters are in a rented facility located behind the Trader Joe’s store on lower Higuera Street in SLO. The lease for that facility runs out in February 2022 and Straw said they plan to be out of there before the lease comes up for renewal.

On another subject, Straw said they are nearly finished with a complete revamping of the main transit hub in Downtown San Luis Obispo located at the intersection of Osos and Palm Streets.