Plans for a new train hub in downtown Raleigh were dealt a major setback this month, but that won’t be apparent from the station renderings that architects will show off Wednesday night.
The staff of Clearscapes, which has been designing Raleigh Union Station since the beginning of the year, will hold a third public information session at 6 p.m. Wednesday in the Contemporary Art Museum. The museum is less than a block from the future station.
Designs for the station are moving ahead despite recent news that the project is no longer fully funded. The N.C. Department of Transportation recently shifted $15.1 million of the station’s $60 million in previously announced funding. They now will have to find more money or settle for a scaled-back project, possibly putting the ambitious Grand Central Station-style designs on hold for years.
The lost funding was federal stimulus dollars, which will now be needed to pay for improvements to a rail line to Charlotte – the original purpose of the stimulus grant. That project has cost more than expected. Raleigh leaders are already discussing significant cutbacks to the project, including a possible temporary station or a partial renovation of the station building.
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Still, Clearscapes’ plan features a total transformation of the long-vacant Dillon Supply Viaduct building at the end of West Martin Street. The architects envision a spacious, high-ceilinged waiting area through much of the building, along with a first-class passenger lounge and three restaurant or retail spaces.
The updated site plan was released Monday. Clearscapes will release its first round of artist renderings Wednesday showing how the station will look, first at an afternoon briefing for the Raleigh City Council, then at the public evening presentation.
Among the highlights of the latest design:
• Pedestrian and car entrances from the corner of Martin and West streets, with a civic plaza at that intersection serving as a gathering space and a gateway to downtown. The existing tracks behind Flanders Gallery will be raised above the entrances.
• Four retail or restaurant spaces – three around the main waiting area, with one upstairs with access to a rooftop terrace.
• A state-of-the-art, environmentally friendly runoff collection system that keeps pollutants from draining off the site. The water will wind up in a rain garden on the north side of the station building.
• Space to eventually add a separate commuter rail platform parallel to the Amtrak platform.
Those amenities all come with a cost, and DOT officials think the price tag will run higher than the original $60 million estimate. As this round of designs wrap up, they expect to have an updated cost estimate that will help establish what’s needed to plug the funding hole.
In a recent news release, transportation secretary Tony Tata stressed that DOT wants to make the station a reality.
“We have been working closely with the mayor, city manager and city council to find alternative solutions to keep Union Station moving forward,” Tata said. “We met on location ... to discuss options to make up the funding shortfall left over from the previous administration.
“We remain committed to this project.”