By Andy McKeever
02:04PM / Friday, May 04, 2012
GREENFIELD, Mass. — A plethora of elected officials descended on Greenfield on Friday to cut a ribbon on the nation’s first net-zero energy transit center.
The newly built $15 million, copper-clad John W. Olver Transit Center on Bank Row was built with $12.8 million in federal stimulus funds and will eventually bring passenger rail back to the area.
U.S. Rep. John W. Olver, D-Amherst, was joined by dozens of public officials including Gov. Deval Patrick, Lt. Gov. Timothy Murray, U.S. Rep. James McGovern, D-Worcester, Administrator of the Federal Transit Administration Peter Rogoff, state Rep. Paul Mark, D-Peru, and state Sen. Stanley Rosenberg, D-Amherst, in a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Department of Transportation Secretary Richard A. Davey was the emcee.
“These are the kinds of investments we need to make not just across the Commonwealth but all across America,” Rogoff said, adding that the new center “embodies” what President Barack Obama envisions for development.
Buildings like this one will help end dependence on foreign energy, bring communities together and is part of Obama’s “all of the above” plans to lower gas prices, he said. Rogoff called on Republicans to pass the new transportation bill that will overhaul the federal transit aid.
The center, which opens on Monday, will house the Franklin Regional Transit Authority and the Franklin Regional Council of Governments. Eventually, it will be a stop on the Amtrak passenger rail and, North Berkshire County officials hope, a spur to restore passenger rail west through the Hoosac Tunnel.
Officials raved about the economic impact the center will have on the region.
“This will open up Franklin County and Greenfield in a way we’ve never seen before,” Murray said.
The 24,000 square foot building features 7,300 square feet of photovoltaic panels, 22 geothermal wells and other energy efficiency technology — basically “everything they could think of,” said Rosenberg.
“We’re taking a very old pastime, construction, but we’re looking at it in new ways,” said Jeffrey Simon, director of the state’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds. “It is also a demonstration of the possible.”
Patrick said these types of building are the future of both the state and the country.
“I am a great believer that in our commonwealth and indeed our country that we have to be about building our own future,” Patrick said.
As for Greenfield officials, Linda Dunlavy, executive director of the Franklin Regional Council of Governments, said they are “humbled and grateful” that they were chosen for a building that is the first of its kind.
The state-of-the-art building is a “fitting tribute” to Olver, Patrick said. Officials raved about Olver’s contributions to the state during his 44 years in state and federal office. Olver has championed transportation not just in his district but all across the state, they said, and each had stories of meetings they’ve had with the former professor.
“There isn’t a transportation project in Massachusetts that doesn’t have John Olver’s fingerprints on it,” McGovern said, and then joked about working so closely with him that they’ve even been to jail together.
Rosenberg characterized Olver as model for other officials because of his “integrity.” His constituency never had to worry about what he was doing in Washington, Rosenberg said, and hoped that in the future, when people ask why the building is named for Olver, those who remember him can tell the stories.
He was sure that they will say of the retiring congressman, “He was an exemplary public servant.”
For Olver, the center is a great honor, he said, because it reflects his own values in transportation and energy.
“This is the direction our policies should be going,” Olver said. “This project is truly a model for the rest of the country… I hope it will be replicated.”