BRADENTON -- The new Manatee County Area Transit transfer station in downtown Bradenton will not open in mid-July as expected due to safety concerns, officials acknowledged Monday.
The art-filled station located in between Sixth and Eighth avenues on 13th Street West will accommodate up to five buses at a time, but MCAT Manager Carl Hunsinger said he is concerned there may not be enough space between the buses as they pass each other exiting the station.
"We are looking for more safety and functionality, we are still addressing that," he said. "I'm still not satisfied with the proximity of the buses down there when they pass each other. I want to be absolutely certain it will be safe for buses, passengers, and pedestrians."
There will be additional live-testing in the upcoming weeks "just to make sure we have it all worked out," Hunsinger said.
Bradenton Councilman Patrick Roff, who represents the downtown area, said safety is a top priority and that if there are any issues, they should be addressed before the facility opens.
"Now is the time to deal with it before you bring in pedestrians and buses," Roff said.
The city does not have jurisdiction over the project since it is a county transit authority venture, he said.
Hunsinger said that if necessary, the median would be moved closer to the sidewalk away from the bus loading
and unloading area. The asphalt roadway reserved for emergency vehicles is wide enough that it can be trimmed in width and still meet requirements, he said.
A space of at least 24 more inches in between the buses would be better, Hunsinger said. Engineers, contractors, and architects will advise him on the best solution, he added.
"If I'm going to sign for that facility it's going to be the best of the best," Hunsinger said. "... If it's not right, it doesn't open."
The $1.7 million environmentally friendly station is being funded by a federal grant funneled through the Florida Department of Transportation.
Hunsinger said any construction or design changes were "not much of a setback." And though he could not provide any specific financial impacts, he said he didn't think "it's too far out for adjustments."
The new station will have ticket vending machines, motion sensor lighting, and restrooms and will be open from 8 a.m. till 5 or 6 p.m., according to Hunsinger.
A mural composed of five, 25-feet-tall and 10-feet-wide sections is one of the most colorful feature at the station. It was designed by an internationally recognized artist and is meant to represent the region's natural landscape, according to Ann Wykell, public art coordinator for Bradenton's Downtown Development Authority.
Michael Howe, executive director of the Sarasota/Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization said his agency is not directly involved with design and construction aspects of the station, but said it is an important project.
"It's a great move for Manatee County," Howe said. "Good location, brand new facility it's important that you have a very functional public transportation system in the two-county area."
A new opening date is still to be determined.
"It's still too early to tell, it could happen within a couple of months, depends on how much work has to be done," Hunsinger said. "The most important thing is that it's safe and functional."
Miriam Valverde, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7024. Follow her on Twitter @MiriamValverde.