Santa Monica’s Big Blue Bus has been honored with the 2010 Project of the Year award from the Southern California chapter of the American Public Works Association (APWA).

The award was presented in recognition of the transit agency’s environmentally significant 66,000-square foot maintenance facility expansion project, which was completed in the fall of 2009.

“Each year, the APWA recognizes public agencies for their outstanding achievements, and also for the wealth of good ideas they share with others,” said George Alvarez, president of the Southern California chapter of the association. “The Big Blue Bus facility expansion project has earned this recognition for its demonstrated awareness of the need to protect and enhance the environment, while also contributing positively to the community it serves.”

Big Blue Bus officials said the $60 million project, which was financed entirely by public transit funds, features the latest in sustainable transit maintenance technologies, including the ability to service every type of alternative fueled vehicle in the transit agency’s fleet.

The project was a collaborative effort between the Big Blue Bus and the city’s Department of Public Works.

“This award is a great honor for the city, and also for the Big Blue Bus employees who provided valuable input towards the final design of the project,” said Stephanie Negriff, director of transit services for the Big Blue Bus.

The expansion project included the construction of 21 high-tech service bays, which can handle the maintenance and repair of up to 20 buses a day, as well as the demolition of the previous 40-year-old maintenance building. Two of the new bays are dedicated to Santa Monica Fire Department vehicles, while three others are extra-long to service the new 60-foot articulated buses on order.

In keeping with the city’s commitment to sustainability, the facility includes many eco-friendly and energy efficient features, such as 600 roof-mounted photovoltaic panels, minimum energy water heaters to help reduce operating costs, and an urban runoff system to filter storm water, according to Big Blue Bus.

“The quality of the design, materials and detailing raise the bar for a maintenance facility,” said Miriam Mulder, project manager for the city’s architecture services division. “It is not only highly functional but beautiful, as well.”