The process of building Camden a better transit hub got an assist this week from $2 million in federal money that will help design an upgrade for the Walter Rand Transportation Center.

The money will pay for preliminary design work, said Dan Keashen, spokesman for Camden County.

About 9,000 people a day use the transit center at Broadway and Martin Luther King Boulevard, traveling by PATCO, the River Line, and NJ Transit buses. The Rand is the nerve center of South Jersey's public transportation services and is situated amid significant development from Rowan University and Cooper University Hospital. It is also a makeshift shelter for the city's homeless during the day and a hotbed of drug activity. Camden County officials see redeveloping the Rand as a key element in revitalizing Camden.

The preliminary design will use as a jumping-off point an economic impact study released in December that outlined the goals for the new transit facility. It includes six to 12 stories of offices, apartments, or hotel space alongside the transit center, shifting bus loading and drop-off areas away from the street to a 25-berth sheltered bus terminal, a parking deck with 280 spaces directly above the bus terminal, and an enclosed bridge connecting the bus station with the PATCO stop on the opposite side of Broadway. The study also recommended investigating the possibility of adding floors above the parking deck.

A rendering of a possible rebuilt transportation center for Camden.
Camden County
A rendering of a possible rebuilt transportation center for Camden.

The economic impact study found that within a half-mile radius of the Rand, there will be a demand for 200 to 610 new residential units in the next eight years. There is also expected to be demand for a million square feet of office space, though much of that could be met with existing buildings.

A request for a proposal for a full conceptual design is expected to be issued in May, Keashen said.

The Camden transit center was one of several New Jersey projects that received money through the Transportation Improvement Program. The Camden-Glassboro Light Rail Line, a long-discussed plan to extend 18 miles of track from the Rand into Gloucester County, was allocated $5 million for planning, a drop in the bucket for a project that has been estimated to cost $2.6 billion.

"It's really there just to say there's a commitment to this project," said Elizabeth Schoonmaker, associate director for transportation at the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, which plays a role in determining what local projects win federal funds.

Also, $200 million in grant money over four years will go to a multi-year project to redesign the interchange of I-295, I-676, and Route 42 in Camden County. The project is the largest in the region and is expected to cost $900 million. It has been underway for years and is expected to be completed within the next 10 years, Schoonmaker said.