Red Light, Green Light is an occasional Daily Astorian feature designed to update readers on a project or issue in the community that made headlines in prior months.

After months of remodeling and years of planning, the Sunset Empire Transit Center opens for business in early May in the former Ocean Beauty fish processing plant at Ninth Street and Marine Drive.

That's the day it's to become an official bus stop not only for The Bus, as the Sunset Empire Transportation District's colorful blue and yellow buses are known, but for buses from Portland and everywhere, said Cindy Howe, the transportation district's executive director. The bus stop will be included in new summer schedules coming out next month.

The center cost $1.7 million to build - $2.8 million if design costs are added in. Howe said she's proud that change orders amounted to less than 2 percent of the project, and the changes that were necessary were for unforeseen items - such as finding railroad tracks in the middle of Astor Street and a retaining wall that city officials didn't know about.

Howe said every effort has been made to maintain the historic character of the building, which was constructed in 1949. Its "sand tan" exterior, trimmed with "Tahoe blue," are paint colors chosen with the help of local historic buildings expert John Goodenberger. There's a waiting room with a view and a meeting room that can be used by the public.

Outside, historic street lights illuminate a parking lot with 38 spaces and a paved courtyard where landscapers are planting trees and other greenery. Buses will load and unload on a concrete bus road behind the building. No bus parking, storage or maintenance will take place at the transit center. Instead, those activities will continue to take place at the SETD's Warrenton facility.

An 11-foot tall "street clock" will be placed in the middle of an area paved with bricks at Ninth Street and Astor Street, the northwest corner of the property, which occupies a square block. Outdoor electrical plug-ins are being installed to provide power for downtown holiday decorations and to accommodate public activities such as bands.

The public will be able to buy bus and tickets and passes and shuttle bus tickets to Fort Clatsop National Memorial at the transit center and there will be signs indicating the parking lot is for Fort Clatsop visitors to use. The call center for the Northwest Rides Center and Dial-A-Ride, will operate out of the transit center building. The transit center building will have a public restroom, a break room for bus drivers, vending machines selling snacks, and racks for business cards and brochures.

But the transit center will not house restaurants or shops. Howe said she expects private enterprise to fill those needs, when the thousands of people who visit the center spark economic development in the area.

"We're truly making it a place so people realize they're downtown - a place to park, get out, shop and explore," Howe said.

The ribbon-cutting ceremony will be June 5, National Trails Day. It will be in partnership with Fort Clatsop, which will open its Netul River Landing shuttle transfer area later the same day. In Astoria, the event will feature the Astoria High School band. The governor has been invited, as well as Oregon's U.S. senators and representatives. Howe said the newest oil painting and poster for the Lewis and Clark Explorer Train will be unveiled that day, and so will the new Lewis and Clark Explorer Shuttle Buses.

Instead of cutting the ribbon at the ceremony, a bus will drive through it, then continue on to Netul Landing, where refreshments will be served. Anyone who wants to get on board the bus and ride out to Fort Clatsop can do so, as long as there's room.

"It's the public's system," Howe said. "Everyone's welcome."

- Sandra Swain

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