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Qiling Wang, Deseret News
Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes, R-Draper, under the guidance of Brett Gines operates an excavator during a groundbreaking ceremony for Utah Transit Authority's Depot District Clean Fuels Tech Center in Salt Lake City on Monday, Oct. 22, 2018. The century-old railroad site, once used as Denver and Rio Grande’s locomotive shop, will be remodeled into a state-of-the-art maintenance and fueling facility designed to accommodate clean air transit vehicles’ maintenance requirements.

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Transit Authority's current garage is too small and too old.

The Central Bus Garage lacks the capacity to store UTA's growing number of buses and the technology to maintain alternative fuel sources, said Interim Executive Director Steve Meyer.

That's why UTA is starting an extensive renovation project on the former Denver and Rio Grande Railway building, located behind UTA's headquarters and west of the intermodal transit station on 600 West.

Qiling Wang, Deseret News
Cindy Terwilliger, Federal Transit Administration Region 8 administrator, speaks during a groundbreaking ceremony for Utah Transit Authority's Depot District Clean Fuels Tech Center in Salt Lake City on Monday, Oct. 22, 2018. The century-old railroad site, once used as Denver and Rio Grande’s locomotive shop, will be remodeled into a state-of-the-art maintenance and fueling facility designed to accommodate clean air transit vehicles’ maintenance requirements.

Transit and government officials spoke at the site's groundbreaking ceremony Monday morning as they announced the upcoming Depot District Clean Fuels Technology Center.

Expected to be finished by 2021, the center will be a fueling and maintenance site for electric, natural gas and diesel buses.

Meyer said UTA will get its first electric buses later this year or next year.

"Getting this done enables us to expand that fleet," Meyer said of the upcoming project.

Plans to build a new bus site have been developing since 2008, Meyer said, when UTA built a natural gas facility.

These changes are steps toward Salt Lake City's goal of being powered 100 percent by "clean energy" by 2032, said Patrick Leary, Mayor Jackie Biskupski's chief of staff.

"Electric and clean fuel vehicles are the future," he said.

UTA has owned the property since 2007, Meyer said, renting and leasing it to other parties.

"It's located to the west end of downtown, it gives access to the freeway — a great place for a bus maintenance facility," Meyer said.

After the speeches, Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes, R-Draper, was chosen to climb aboard an excavator and officially break the ground in a small dirt patch next to the building.

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Myer said the facility will be "very attractive" when it's done. He said architects and engineers have made plans to "merge the modern with the historic" aspects of the building.

Those attending the groundbreaking were also given a chance to go into the building, where renovation design plans were set up to show what certain parts of the building would look like after the renovation.

Funding for the project will come primarily through grants from the Federal Transit Administration.