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Sun Metro unveils new transfer center and parking garage on Glory Road

Sun Metro's new combined transfer center and parking garage will be open to the public in time for UTEP's spring semester.
VIPs gave the Glory Road Transfer Center and Parking Garage a welcoming ceremony Thursday that included speeches, cake, cheerleaders and the rollout of new energy-efficient buses.

The official public opening for the center is set for 5 a.m. Sunday. The garage will be open at 5 a.m. Monday.

Sun Metro Director Jay Banasiak said the facility is the pinnacle of the city's bus transfer centers constructed so far.

Its striking Bhutanese architecture allows it to blend in with the rest of the University of Texas at El Paso campus and other nearby businesses on North Mesa that adopted a similar building style.

West Side city Rep. Ann Morgan Lilly, who was at the ceremony, said she plans to walk to the bus new terminal from her home and take the bus to work.

The $13 million facility features a six-level 436-space garage with park-and-ride option, an enclosed waiting area with real-time information displays, free Wi-Fi, restrooms, water fountains, ticket vending machines and other amenities.

It is 202,000 square feet and sits on 0.86 acres at 100 E. Glory Road, across from the Don Haskins Center. About $8.5 million of its construction costs was paid with federal stimulus money, and the rest with city and state money.

"This is one of the most visible federal projects in El Paso funded by the Recovery Act. It's a shining example of the economic impact
this legislation has made on the community," U.S. Rep. Silvestre Reyes, D-Texas, said in a statement.

Jerry Paris, 24, who works at a Subway restaurant a block from the center, said he's looking forward to using the new facility. The bus he takes each day will drop him off there.

"I'm glad they have a machine in there that will sell Sun Metro tickets and passes," Paris said. "I live in the West Side, and it takes me 20 to 25 minutes to get to work. The bus service is good, and it's nice and friendly."

The Sun Metro center features artwork by Mike Mandel, a Boston artist who created two mosaic murals that commemorate former UTEP coach Don Haskins and the 1966 basketball team that won the NCAA Championship (Haskins was the first coach to start five black players in an NCAA championship game).

Mary Haskins, widow of the Hall of Fame coach, attended Thursday's ceremony, along with Mandel, Mayor John Cook, UTEP President Diana Natalicio and other dignitaries.

Mandel, who stood near his artwork, said the "Glory Road" mosaic depicts a historic event that "advanced the cause of equal rights and social justice."

Diana Gloria, 22, the UTEP student government president, said the new garage will provide students with parking spaces at a reasonable fee.

About half the spaces can be used by students and university employees. The rest are available to the public.

"Before the garage was built, the parking in that area used to be mostly for events at the Don Haskins Center or Sun Bowl," Gloria said. "It was always hard to find parking, or to eat at one of the nearby restaurants because people were afraid their cars would get towed away.

"It represents another step that UTEP has taken to make the campus more accessible to the students and the community."

The garage, for which ground was broken in July 2009, already provided parking for the 77th Hyundai Sun Bowl on Dec. 31. Officials said football fans filled the garage within four hours that day.
The fees for public parking are $2 for the first half-hour and $1 for every hour after that, with a maximum of $10 a day. A monthly pass is available for $80.
For special events, there is a flat $10 fee, and a special nightlife parking fee of $10, from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m., on Thursdays, Fridays or Saturdays.

Parking passes for UTEP use went on sale in December, and since then more than 100 of the allotted parking passes were purchased.
The prorated fee is $142.50 for students, and $225 for faculty and staff through Aug. 21.
The annual fee is $195 for students and $300 for faculty.

UTEP senior Alexa Velasquez, 21, said she knows several students who rely on Sun Metro to commute to campus.

"I continue to drive because it's more convenient for me," Velasquez said. "But other students who use the bus complained that they have to get up too early so they can ride to school. That's because they have to change buses, so I don't know that the new center will change that."

Sun Metro, which owns the facility, leased the land the center sits on from UTEP for 30 years.

Kinley Pon, owner of Kinley's House Coffee & Teas at 2231 N. Mesa, said it will be interesting to see how the new center affects traffic and parking once university classes begin next week.

"The nighttime is not a problem because people can park anywhere," Pon said. "The problem is the students and parking during the daytime. Many of them say they cannot afford parking permits and (they) park on the street.

"If the garage provides students with affordable parking, and the students use it, then it might be a good thing. We will wait and see what happens."Sun Metro's new combined transfer center and parking garage will be open to the public in time for UTEP's spring semester.
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