The Tucson Unified School District says better school bus service is on the way for students and families on the west side.
TUSD held a ribbon cutting ceremony at its Westside Transportation Center on West Jeffrey Road, near Valencia and Camino de Oeste Wednesday.
It's just east of Casino del Sol.
The bus facility is considered state-of-the-art.
It's location is expected to save TUSD hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.
The ceremony began with speeches welcoming the guests.
Pascua Yaqui Tribal Treasurer Francisco Munoz offered a prayer during his welcome speech.
"This is what it's for, for the kids and they are our future. And we pray that they all be blessed," he said.
A 2004 voter-approved bond package paid for the $5.2 million transportation center.
The location on the far southwest side is the result of a partnership between the district and the Pascua Yaqui Tribe.
It's on tribal land that the tribe is swapping for TUSD land in a lease agreement.
The federal government is expected to approve the deal soon.
"It just shows the amazing things that can happen when partnerships emerge and how a community can be elevated just by outstanding communication and shared decisions," says TUSD Superintendent H. T. Sanchez.
TUSD's main transportation facility is in midtown, near Kino Parkway and Broadway, making it a very long trip to get to west side neighborhoods and schools, then back again.
"There's a lot of projections that a lot of our enrollment will be coming from this area. So it makes sense to put a facility here," says TUSD Governing Board Member Cam Juarez.
TUSD Chief Operating Officer Candy Egbert says, "We project that our total savings from having--in fuel costs, in miles and staff time--that our savings is 700,000 a year."
The district says buses will last longer as the new facility's location saves 475,000 miles of travel a year.
Egbert says it also will save 73,000 gallons of diesel fuel and 35,000 staff hours each year.
The new bus yard has green features such as water harvesting.
Board Member Juarez says it could have solar some day.
The citizens committee overseeing the project is pleased.
"This project is fantastic. So the westside transportation facility has been a dream of the district for a long time," says TUSD Bond Fiscal Oversight Committee Chairperson Earl Mendenhall.
TUSD still has to put some last-minute touches on the facility.
Some 80 school buses are expected to begin operating out of there the first day of school.
TUSD also has spent $4.5 million in bond money on new buses for the district.
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