Raleigh gets $10 million federal grant to help build Union Station

bsiceloff@newsobserver.comSeptember 4, 2013 

— With a $10 million federal grant announced Wednesday, Raleigh has enough money to get started on a new Amtrak train station envisioned as a crucial anchor for the up-and-coming downtown warehouse district.

But state and local officials say the city is still about $20 million short of the $73 million it will need to build out the planned Union Station project with parking, a civic plaza and other improvements at the foot of West Martin Street.

“It means we’ve still got a little bit more to go, but we’re optimistic that we’ll be able to pull this project off,” said Richard Walls, a deputy secretary who oversees the state Department of Transportation rail division. “We haven’t crossed the finish line yet.”

U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan announced the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant to help build a long-sought replacement for Raleigh’s cramped Amtrak station.

“Completing a new Union Station is an important investment that will bring economic development to the City of Raleigh and improve the lives of commuters and tourists who utilize the rail facilities every day at one of the Southeast’s busiest stations,” Hagan said Wednesday in a news release.

City and DOT officials said no decisions had been made about when to move forward on the first phase of the station project. That will include most of the track work, a passenger platform, and a new passenger depot in a renovated warehouse at the foot of West Martin Street. They’ll keep looking for more money, probably from additional federal grants.

“We are thrilled that the federal government understands the importance of this to the economic development of the city,” Mayor Nancy McFarlane said. “We’re still working to find more funding to close that gap, and we’re working very closely with the state.”

Raleigh leaders thought their worries were over last September when state and federal transportation officials came to the red-brick warehouse to declare that they had nailed down all the money they needed, in a package of grants, to build Union Station.

But state Transportation Secretary Tony Tata said in June that former DOT officials had erred in pledging $15.1 million – money Tata said must be spent elsewhere. A month later, the project cost estimate grew by $13 million.

City and DOT planners floated the idea this summer of making a barebones start at Union Station, with a cheap modular building.

Now they can forget about a modular structure, said Paul Worley, the state DOT rail director. The new $10 million grant provides enough money to renovate the former Dillon Supply warehouse, known as the Viaduct Building.

“This gives you a lot more building,” Worley said. “We can get into business with the basics.”

Union Station eventually is to become part of a planned hub for local and regional bus and rail transit service. Florida-based Citrix is turning a nearby warehouse into offices for 250 technology workers.

Still unfunded in the project plans are parking facilities, a plaza in the block adjoining Union Station, more track and platform construction, and rail bridges over Martin and West streets. Mitchell Silver, the city planning director, said Raleigh included most of these costs in its original TIGER grant request for $27.5 million.

“We’re getting closer to full funding and the reality that this station is going to be built,” Silver said. “So we’re very grateful we were able to get some of what we requested.”

Siceloff: 919-829-4527 or blogs.newsobserver.com/crosstown. On Twitter @Road_Worrier.

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