Like most empty lots, a graveled spot in a southeast corner of the Benicia Industrial Park doesn’t look like much, though it has held a popular taco truck for years. But that’s all about to change and bus riders, commuters and bicyclists may want to take note. By the end of January, the lot, at Industrial Way and Park Road, should be sporting a new transit center.

Also called the Benicia bus hub, the transit center will include sheltered bus stops, a park-and-ride lot with 50 spaces, restrooms and a safe place to drop off riders. Bicyclists will also be served if they commute by bicycle or bus. An agreement with the city allows the El Ranchero food truck to remain.

Route 40 buses from the Fairfield and Suisun Transit (FAST) service will stop at the new center, providing public transportation connections to BART stations in Walnut Creek and Pleasant Hill, as well as transit centers in Fairfield and Vacaville.

SolTrans, the bus service for Benicia and Vallejo, has no immediate plans to expand bus lines to the transit center. However, riders who request a General Public Dial-a-Ride pick-up or drop-off at that spot will benefit from a safer and more attractive setting, says agency executive director Mona Babauta. Further down the line, SolTrans officials will study ways to connect bus lines to the facility, a move that, according to board member and Mayor Elizabeth Patterson, would bolster public transportation options.

The $2.1 million transit center got underway earlier this Fall, nearly a year after the city of Benicia purchased the one-acre lot from the Barragan family of Concord, who have operated the food truck for many years. The city was poised to take the lot by eminent domain. However, Mayor Patterson said negotiations resulted in an agreed-upon price and eventual sale.

The city paid $520,000 for the lot with funds coming from a variety of transportation funds, according to city staff report presented to the City Council.  Future proceeds of state transit dollars were also borrowed for the purchase. Other funds for the transit center came from Regional Measure 2 bridge tolls, plus a loan from SolTrans.

A city franchise agreement and partnership allows the Barragan family to continue to stage their food truck on the lot. Employees will also be required to keep the new transit center clean and free of litter, says Jason Riley, city principal civil engineer. A newly configured parking area will better serve large trucks that frequent the site for the taco truck. On a broader scale, the new transit hub will go a long way toward improving transit options and serving the Industrial Park, Patterson said.

According to Riley, little of the new transit center can be seen now since crews have mainly focused on underground infrastructure, including installation of new water line and sewer line work. Discovery of underground fiber optic lines has set back completion of the center a few weeks while crews sort out and resolve the issue. Once the underground utilities are finished, crews can then start to straighten out a curve on Park Road and construct the more visible parts of the center.

In creating the new transit center, several key goals were achieved including keeping the taco truck on the site, straightening out Park Road and improving commuter parking and bus options. Most importantly though, Patterson said the project will take the Industrial Park a little further down the road in modernization.