Martin County Commissioners put brakes on plans for transit hub in downtown Stuart

STUART, Fla. - Martin County Commissioners have put the brakes for now on plans for a transit hub in downtown Stuart, and in the process turned down more than a million dollars in federal stimulus funds.

In the office of Stuart City Manager Paul Nicoletti is a drawing of the future.  The rendering is of a proposed transit depot the city has wanted to build for the past three years across the street from the Martin County Courthouse on Flagler Avenue. It would serve as a hub for the county's bus system, and perhaps also become an Amtrak station.

Two years ago, Martin County received $1.2 million dollars in federal stimulus money towards the project.  So Tuesday afternoon, Stuart City manager Paul Nicoletti watched the County Commission meeting with interest. Monday night, the city had agreed to put 225-thousand dollars toward the 2-million dollar overall pricetag.

But County Commissioners had other ideas and decided not to invest. By a 4-1 vote, the county declined to contribute its share of the project. Commission chairman Ed Ciampi said the idea to bring passenger rail service to Stuart is a good one, but the day to day operations would have fallen on the county,  and their options were limited as to the tenants for that building.

"Staff laid out a very compelling argument how this really wasn't going to work for us and so reluctantly we had no choice but to pass on this opportunity," said Commissioner Ciampi.

County engineers felt the site wasn't compatible for a combined bus and train facility.

"We couldn't park busses there so moving the drivers and the whole operation there.," added County Engineer Don Donaldson.

Paul Nicoletti said the City of Stuart is disappointed in the county's decision for two reasons.

"One it's a shame to turn down that much federal money and two, it was a start as far as bringing Martin County transit into center city," he said.

Stuart was selected as one of the eight cities identified by Amtrak for service in the future so the city will continue to look at other options and try to get back on track.

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