Lee-Ogle Transportation getting nearly $3.3 million to expand Dixon facility, add electric buses

Carrol County Transit will be building a garage in Mount Carroll

The Lee-Ogle Transportation System (its office shown here) will keep its doors open into next year, thanks to a long-awaited payment from the state – but how long that relief will last remains to be seen, as budget uncertainty continues at the state level.

DIXON – The Lee/Ogle and Carroll County public transportation systems are getting an infusion of state money to expand facilities and, in LOTS’ case, to add a pair of electric buses, the governor’s office said in a news release Wednesday.

The Lee-Ogle Transportation System, which is headquartered in Dixon, will use $3.26 million from the Rebuild Illinois capital program to upgrade the building and add office space at its headquarters at 210 E. Progress Drive in Dixon, LOTS Executive Director Greg Gates said Wednesday.

The grant is part of nearly $111.4 million from the Rebuild Illinois capital program allocated to downstate transportation companies for 63 projects involving facility, equipment and technology upgrades, the release said.

Nearly $2.68 million is earmarked for the LOTS expansion. Plans call for turning the current conference room into office space, adding more offices and fashioning a new conference room at the end of the building.

The Lee-Ogle Transportation System won a $2.8 million state grant to expand services and create a satellite office in Ogle County. The bulk of the grant will go toward acquiring property, and designing and building the office, the location for which has yet to be announced.

Once the grant paperwork is processed, the next step will be to hire an engineer and an architect to design the expansion, which will include solar and geothermal energy sources. He expects the entire project to be finished in a year and a half at the latest, Gates said.

The two new electric vehicles, for which $591,000 is allotted, will have a range of 150 miles on a charge, and will be used for in-town routes in the Dixon and Rochelle areas, Gates said. They will hold at least 12 to 15 people.

“We’re really excited for the potential of the buses,” he said. “It only makes sense, as we look at the price of gas, to be utilizing some of these vehicles.”

The money comes on the heels of a November 2020, $2.8 million Rebuild Illinois grant, which LOTS is using to build a satellite office on 3.7 acres at the corner of Pines Road and state Route 2 in Oregon.

LOTS bought the site in May for $190,000, and now is in the process of hiring an engineer and an architect for that project. He hopes to break ground within a year, Gates said.

The bulk of that money will be used to design and build the office, which will be a scaled-down version of the Progress Drive headquarters, he said. Three new handicapped-accessible buses also are planned, and once the Oregon office is open, routes can originate there instead of in Dixon, which also will save some money, Gates said.

The goal of all these upgrades is to boost ridership, to encourage more people to take advantage of the LOTS system, Gates said.

“Overall, we’re trying to move public transportation even farther forward and attract even more users.” he said, noting that in 2121, thanks to the pandemic, ridership was down about a third, from 100,000 rides in a typical year to only about 60,000.

“We want to continue to meet the needs of people who need public transportation.”

Carroll County Transit plans to take its share of the Rebuild pot, $536,000, and build a garage for its four buses and 10 vans, operations manager Alicia Kness said Wednesday.

“We’re just so excited.”

She and CCT’s grants manager, Mary Maszk, applied for the funds in late summer or early fall, and if the Illinois Department of Transportation approves, construction will begin in spring on a wooded lot on Benton Street, just off state Route 64, which the state agency owns.

To learn more

Both Lee-Ogle Transportation Service and Carroll County Transit provide on-demand, curb-to-curb service, as well as some established stops. They also work in limited partnerships with other surrounding county public transportation systems. Go to http://lotsil.org/ or http://ccsso.net/Transportation.html for more information on catching a ride. Both also can be found on Facebook.

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Kathleen Schultz

Kathleen A. Schultz

Kathleen Schultz is a Sterling native with 40 years of reporting and editing experience in Arizona, California, Montana and Illinois.