WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - After decades of planning and work, the first leg in the footstool of centralizing public transportation in Wilmington is finally ready for customers.
Leaders from around the Cape Fear region gathered Friday afternoon to dedicate WAVE Transit’s new multimodal facility, located in the old Neuwirth Motors building along Campbell Street between 3rd and 4th streets.
The historic building has been renovated, and a new terminal for buses added, moving transfers off of the sidewalk on 2nd Street downtown to a location officials say will be safer for pedestrians, and crucial to future transportation initiatives.
The station is named after former Wilmington City Council member Laura Padgett, who was described by other dignitaries at the event as having been a champion for public transportation for decades.
Padgett Station offers WAVE customers a place to get out of the elements between trips, as well as restrooms and resources for public transit in the region.
The station’s namesake said she was honored to have the facility named after her.
“I am absolutely bowled over to have this building named after me," she said. "This wonderfully-preserved, historic building. It is truly an honor and I never would have dreamed that this could happen.”
The project predates WAVE itself, having been initially discussed in the 1990s.
Its opening on Saturday, Jan. 18, comes as the future of WAVE is uncertain.
The New Hanover County Commission initially voted to pull its funding for WAVE, but the city and county recently announced they will be collaborating to determine what the future of WAVE looks like, hopefully coming to a solution in the next 18 months.
Padgett address the sometimes heated debate over WAVE directly, saying the goal should be to support public transportation, and that WAVE’s shortcomings are due to a lack of resources.
“It is not a structural problem, as you’ve seen from all the things that WAVE has accomplished, but a funding problem,” she said. “Our community needs to except the challenges of WAVE as our challenges personally.”
Padgett said bolstering the transit system will ultimately benefit the efforts to address other issues in the community as well.
“We need to acknowledge that WAVE can be part of the cure for congestion, part of the cure for affordable housing needs, part of the cure for people who are stranded by finances or disability, part of the cure for over developed but isolated parts of our community, part of the cure for the lack of access and mobility.”