For all the fussing about transit and the need for more kinds of it in the Triangle, the shovel-turning to launch the Union Station project in downtown Raleigh should bring everyone together.
This is a major breakthrough. The station will serve Amtrak riders and replace the dull and tattered Cabarrus Street station, which was an embarrassment as a train station for the state’s Capital City. The new station, a renovation of the old Dillon Supply Viaduct building, is more like it.
Union Station will have restaurants, shops and a plaza and will serve trains and buses. It’s a symbol of a city growing up and getting better. Raleigh has long needed this kind of project. It will cost about $80 million, $53 million of which will come from the federal government.
City leaders were smart to show a little vision here and a little imagination, daring to go beyond the bare minimum and create something of which citizens can be proud. Once the project is complete, there can be more development of business and residential areas around the station.
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The station, though not directly connected to other transit pushes in the Triangle, is an important symbol nonetheless of the changing attitudes toward transportation in general. Time was, Raleigh thought of itself as a community centered on the automobile. Now, more people who want to enter and leave the city will have better options by train and bus at Union Station and perhaps one day will have access to light and commuter rail lines there as well. The first phase of Union Station is slated for completion in 2017.