Grant sought by city to help launch Warden project won’t be funded

Mayor hopes to find other ways to get the project going

A $7.63 million federal grant Fort Dodge leaders hoped would be a key financial building block for a planned intermodal hub downtown was not awarded, forcing them to seek other ways to fund the project.

The U.S. Department of Transportation has released the list of communities that will receive a Better Utilizing Investment to Leverage Development — BUILD — grant, and Fort Dodge is not on the list.

Mayor Matt Bemrich said he was “extremely disappointed.”

“My hope was that it was going to be the first financial stack in place to move the project forward,” he said Wednesday afternoon.

He said officials will examine the possibility of building a smaller and less expensive intermodal hub.

The planned intermodal hub would be constructed on the north side of First Avenue South, spanning 10th Street. It would link the Warden Plaza at 908 First Ave. S. and a proposed cultural and recreation center to be built near the intersection of First Avenue South and 12th Street.

As initially proposed, the facility would have parking spaces for 500 vehicles. Some of those spaces would have been reserved for residents of new apartments to be created in the now vacant Warden Plaza. Other spaces would have been reserved for people visiting the cultural and recreation center and still others would be reserved for employees working at the Carver Building, which is just north of the site.

Part of the dispatching and ticketing operations of Dodger Area Rapid Transit would be moved into the intermodal hub. The main bus stop and transfer point at Central Avenue and Ninth Street would be moved there as well.

A rack full of bicycles to rent would be placed in the intermodal hub.

The facility would cost $11.5 million.

The federal grant would have covered much of that cost. City officials had planned to borrow the remaining roughly $4 million and pay off that debt with parking revenues generated at the facility.

Bemrich said he wants to explore the possibility of borrowing that $4 million and using it to build a smaller version of the intermodal hub that would have about 150 parking spaces. He wants to have meetings and conference calls this week with federal, state and local officials to examine all the options. The mayor also plans to contact U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Kiron, to see if there are any other federal funding options available.

The U.S. Department of Transportation offers communities the chance to get feedback on their grant applications.

“We definitely will do that,” Bemrich said.

He thanked King and Republican U.S. senators Joni Ernst and Charles Grassley for their efforts to help Fort Dodge get the BUILD grant.

“Our legislative folks really did what we asked them to do, but it was a really competitive process,” he said.

Bemrich led a local delegation to Washington, D.C., last month to help make the case for the city’s grant application.