MARION -- Calling Marion the retail and transportation hub of Southern Illinois, Marion Mayor Anthony Rinella was among the speakers Thursday touting the importance of the area's newest park-and-ride public transit facility soon to be built by Rides Mass Transit in front of the Marion Veterans Center, adjacent to Interstate 57.
That theme was echoed by others at the event at a groundbreaking ceremony to celebrate what's coming, including Republican state Sen. Dale Fowler of Harrisburg.
"We're very excited about this expansion of Rides services," he said. "This is a major step in allowing our citizens to move around economically. This will also help increase community awareness of this great service, something I've tried to do ever since I've been a state senator. It's especially important as our population continues to age."
Fowler's colleague in the state house, Republican Rep. Dave Severin of Benton, said the new facility is being built on state property with the federal government joining forces to make it happen.
"It will help people throughout the region," he said. "The Route 13 and I-57 corridors tie people together north and south and east and west and this expanded service will help them immensely!"
Closing out the event, Rides Mass Transit CEO Bill Jung told the crowd, "It will be an open terminal with around 1,100 square feet, providing seating both inside and outside. There will also be parking for 65 vehicles for those utilizing this new terminal."
The transportation hub was made possible by the federal and state governments joining forces with the private sector to provide area residents with a transfer mechanism to improve the efficiency of the Rides urban bus system.
It will be an access point for the intercity bus offerings with weekday service to St. Louis, Evansville, Paducah, West Frankfort, Benton and Mt. Vernon, as well as hourly service between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. between Marion and Carbondale. The $1.9 million project is expected to be open in early 2019.