VALDOSTA -- In a couple of months, the Valdosta City School System's new Transportation Facility/Bus Garage will open its doors on Eastwind Road.

Located across from Valdosta High School, the $1 million-plus campus is scheduled for completion on March 31. It features an approximately 6,000-square-foot structure, which houses a garage and offices.

William Aldrich, director of operations for the Valdosta City School System, said the bus lot portion of the project was laid before the holiday break. It is protected by a steel fence and secured gate.

"Our buses have been using it since Christmas," he said. "Everything's going well so far. They really have a lot more space out there."

Director of Transportation Charles Bonner said the 1204 Williams St. location was simply too crowded.

"It was so hard for our bus drivers to get in and out," he explained. "The parking situation was terrible. They had to back the buses in just to park. Sometimes the buses were so close to one another the driver could barely get out."

Wednesday afternoon, a team from Quillian Powell Construction Company Inc., general contractors, and various subcontractors, including Frank R Franks Inc. and Carter Rental, worked to complete the garage and office space. The concrete slab and frame are already in place.

"We're really excited and cannot wait for everything to get completed," Bonner said.

The garage, which will be 50 percent larger than the present facility, will offer two bus bays and an automatic washer capable of washing the school system's entire fleet in less than an hour, Aldrich said. Bonner said his mechanics are eager to spread their wings in the expanded space.

"When this thing gets completed, it's going to be really nice," he said. "We're very proud. It's going to be a better situation for all of us. The old facility had been there for years. It was once a classroom at the old Valdosta High School. It was very cramped. At the new site, all of our buses will be in a centralized location. The drivers can come in the morning, do their routes, and put the buses up."

The City of Valdosta's Maintenance Facility, the school system's new fueling center, is about two miles away on Myrtle Street.

The project was funded by the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax program.

To contact reporter Jessica Pope, please call 244-3400, ext. 255.

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