Midtown Raleigh News

City to set aside $7 million for rail hub

By committing $7 million for a proposed downtown train station, Raleigh hopes to show the federal government it is serious about bringing a new passenger rail hub to the center-city.

But winning federal dollars will be difficult given the number of communities competing for limited cash, a Raleigh transportation official said last week.

Raleigh wants the feds to contribute $60 million in economic recovery money for the project, which would transform a vacant Dillon Supply building into a Grand Central-style terminal with a spacious waiting hall and modern amenities.

The total price rose to $75 million after site planners added track, platform and signal improvements and factored in the need for a West Street extension to allow safe traffic flow.

An earlier $35 million estimate only covered upfits to the building, formerly home to a steel fabrication shop. The money would come from a mix of city, state and federal sources.

The new figures drew questions from City Councilman John Odom, who cast the lone vote against setting aside additional money.

“This is the kind of thing I want the public to be aware of,” Odom said. “I just want to make sure everybody knows this is an expensive proposition.”

The project will deliver more than a train terminal, said Councilman Thomas Crowder. The extension of West Street will allow pedestrians, cyclists and cars to travel on a roadway beneath the tracks.

“It’s not just a transit project,” Crowder said. “It’s a road project. I think you have to look at it in that light.”

The city had previously set aside $3 million in bond money approved by voters in October. An additional $4 million will come from next year’s budget.

Raleigh officials are pursuing money from the federal TIGER grant program, which supports transportation projects shown to boost the regional or national economy.

In the last round of the TIGER program, the U.S. Department of Transportation awarded a total of $511 million to 46 transportation projects.

The winners were chosen from a field of 848 applicants.

The Dillon building, owned by Triangle Transit, would replace the city’s current Amtrak station, a cramped depot on Cabarrus Street.

Supporters call it a catalyst to spur the redevelopment of old buildings in the warehouse district, a former industrial area enjoying a renaissance with creative shops, restaurants and galleries.

The rail hub would represent the first component of Union Station, a network of downtown transit venues providing service for local, regional and Greyhound buses, a commuter rail line and future light-rail system.

These venues would be built in phases during the next several years.