FARGO — Downtown Fargo's Ground Transportation Center will be reopening to passengers in just over a week or on Oct. 1, with some city transit staff moving into the fully remodeled facility this week.

The $3 million project that started in late March involved numerous safety and security updates to the depot and the 200-vehicle underground parking structure below. During construction, MATBUS used a temporary bus loading location on Third Avenue North across from the Civic Center.

"With the population growing, we needed to do something," said Assistant Transit Director Matt Peterson about the project.

The 37-year-old building previously saw a minor remodeling in 2005.

"We hope this will last us another 15 to 20 years," he said. "It's going to be a real asset to Fargo, and it's money well spent."

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Plus, Peterson said, federal and state transit funds are paying for a majority of the project.

In the center itself, passengers will find new seating with cellphone or computer plug-ins, seven new digital screens tracking buses and arrival times, a new ticket office and new bathrooms.

Open from 6:15 a.m. to 11:15 p.m. Monday through Friday and opening at 7:15 a.m. on Saturdays, the facility will again allow riders to have an indoor space to wait for buses.

Jefferson Lines, which moved its operations back downtown after several years in various locations across the metro, is also leasing a remodeled office area in the front of the building for long-distance passengers, with a new baggage storage area.

MATBUS station in downtown Fargo. Chris Flynn / The Forum
MATBUS station in downtown Fargo. Chris Flynn / The Forum

As far as safety goes, the structure is more spacious with its new floor design, and a dispatch center on the southeast corner of the facility allows staff to keep an eye on almost all bus operations inside and out.

Buses under the new layout will no longer be forced to back up when leaving the center, which was a concern for the safety of passengers as they had several close calls on crashes, Peterson said.

In the new office area, pods for transit staff are joined by a desk for a Fargo police department officer, who can boost safety at the depot.

Drivers also have a remodeled break room, and it's about the only area of the building that is in the same location under the new layout.

"We had a lot of wasted space," Peterson said about the former layout of the center.

Inside the remodeled MATBUS station in downtown Fargo. Chris Flynn / The Forum
Inside the remodeled MATBUS station in downtown Fargo. Chris Flynn / The Forum

Outside, the entire bus loading and driving zone has a new concrete layer, and new sidewalks surround the building.

In addition, the safety of the underground parking structure that the city rents out on a monthly basis has been improved dramatically.

A new rubber waterproofing and sealing system around the perimeter of the underground parking garage will help prevent leaks. In one spot, the seepage was affecting the safety of a support beam. Safety improvements to the roof of the parking garage — the bus driving zone — were also completed.

Work will continue next spring when a wide canopy outside the building will be replaced with a more modern looking covering. Roof work will also be done. .

"It's been quite a year," Peterson said about the project, the temporary loading zone and pandemic issues that resulted in free fares on the buses through Dec. 31, a mask requirement for all riders and a 40% decline in passengers.