Taking a sneak peek at MetroLINK’s maintenance facility

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A major development in Rock Island is nearly ready to open. MetroLINK is preparing to unveil a new Transit Maintenance Facility on the site of the former Farmall plant in coming weeks.

That's where MetroLINK will be able to store and repair its bus fleet. It takes public transportation into the future.

There's a lot of "wow" factor here.

"It's a feeling of ah!" said MetroLINK's Jennifer Garrity.

Make that oohs-and-ahs for MetroLINK's $34 million project.

"It's undoubtedly a first class facility," said Construction Advisor Harlan Fournier.

Jennifer and Harlan invited us inside on Friday for an exclusive tour. Workers are putting the finishing touches on the massive 153,000 square foot complex.

That includes an indoor fueling center. It's where MetroLINK buses will fill up with clean compressed natural gas.

It's like a giant service station.

"It's a big service station with a lot of electronics involved," Fournier said.

Bus repair rolled into the future back in August 2011. That's when Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn broke ground on the innovative project.

"It means investing in transportation," he said at the time.

MetroLINK will leave its outdated and landlocked center. More than 100 employees are ready for a fresh start in coming weeks with twice the space.

"When you look at it on a national scale, it will be a role model for future buildings," Garrity said.

The new service area offers room to grow. Mechanics can work above ground and down below.

"I've been in a lot of repair shops," Fournier said. "Nothing is built like this. It's state of the art."

There's a futuristic, sci-fi-looking painting room, and plenty of sustainable designs that are turning heads.

This green concept will make the buildings more environmentally friendly. That means harnessing solar energy for its electricity and heating.

From rooftop solar panels to recycled water in the bus wash, conservation is key.

The facility will also house operations, call and control centers.

"Our goal is to maintain a quality fleet," Garrity said. "That's so we can continue to get a quality ride to each and every person who gets on the bus."

MetroLINK serves 10,000 riders each day. That adds up to 3.5 million passengers every year.

With new buses also ready to roll, there will be even more "wow" factor to keep MetroLINK on the move.