Metro Transit's dream of getting a new bus garage near its headquarters just north of downtown Minneapolis took a small step forward Tuesday when the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) awarded an $11 million grant for the project.

The grant, one of 107 awarded from the administration's Buses and Bus Facilities Infrastructure investment Program, would go toward building a 400,000-square-foot facility that would house up to 200 buses and include space for bus maintenance operations, washing, cleaning and fueling.

The facility, to be built on transit-owned property at 8th and Oak Lake avenues N., would also include administrative offices and parking.The building also would help relive overcrowded conditions at Metro Transit's other bus garages.

“The case for the new garage is clear: We’re getting everything we can out of our existing facilities and simply cannot expand our service without additional space," said Metro Transit General Manager Brian Lamb said. 

The Heywood Garage that currently sits on the agency's headquarters Hwy. 55 and 6th Avenue N. dates to the 1980s. 

Design and site cleanup activities for the new garage are currently underway,  but funding remains the big obstacle. The proposed facility will cost about $120 million, but the Met Council has been unsuccessful obtaining money from the state.

"The Council has been seeking money at the State Capitol for the past decade to fund this important project," said Met Council spokeswoman Kate Brickman. "We knew it would be a need, and has become an increasingly urgent need in recent years, as our regional transit system has grown."

Brickman said getting the garage is a priority and that "maintenance and preservation of our fleet is critical to providing a reliable and safe transit system."

To that end, she said the Council will look at its Capital Program to see if it can reposition projects to free up money for the garage.

If funding is found, the two-year construction project could begin as early as mid-2019 with a goal of having the garage open by early 2021.

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