Full throttle on Raleigh depot

September 8, 2013 

It’s hard to think of a train song that really captures the great news that a federal grant announced Wednesday by U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan will allow Raleigh to jump start the building of a train new depot to be called Union Station.

And there are a lot of train songs.

After a setback from the Republican-run General Assembly on the transfer of the Dorothea Dix property for a public park, the Capital City needed a little good news, and it got it. A $10 million grant from the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery, or TIGER, will go toward converting the old Dillon Supply warehouse into a spectacular depot.

The city thought it had the necessary money but ran into a problem this summer when state Transportation Secretary Tony Tata said that previous DOT officials had made a mistake in pledging money that was supposed to go to other projects. Suspicions arose that politics perhaps helped tie Raleigh on the tracks.

Hagan pretty much had it right when she said, “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.”

Indeed, Raleigh is a destination and a departure point. With increased traffic, higher gasoline prices, irritating wear and tear on vehicles and the other factors that have driven more people to train travel – where many have discovered they should have been long ago – ridership is likely to increase.

Beyond the practical, and the practical is reason enough to invest in Union Station, the design as envisioned would be a pleasing addition to a part of the downtown area that could use a signature building with restaurants and shops and serve as a place for parents to take kids, most all of whom go through a “train phase.” (Ever heard of Thomas?)

Raleigh is a big, growing city, and it deserves a showcase of a train station. Let’s hope more money is going to roll in.

This would have been a wise investment for the state, but give Hagan and federal officials credit for stepping in. Credit also is due the city officials and planners who have long dreamed of a Union Station.

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