In an increasingly common occurrence, Gov. Pat McCrory found himself in downtown Raleigh on Friday touting a massive new public project.
McCrory, along with a slate of local, state and federal officials, spoke at the ceremonial groundbreaking on the $80 million Union Station transit hub on the western edge of the city’s Warehouse District.
“What a great week for the capital of North Carolina,” the governor said, speaking outside the brick hulk of a warehouse that will form the station’s bones. “We’re moving forward to build a beautiful train station, again, that will be the centerpiece of transportation, not only for Raleigh but also for North Carolina.”
The new station will serve Amtrak trains, replacing the Cabarrus Street station. Scheduled for completion in 2017, the project is a sweeping renovation of the old Dillon Supply Viaduct building. It will include restaurants, shops and a civic plaza, serving both trains and buses.
It was only three days earlier that McCrory had his arm around Mayor Nancy McFarlane to celebrate the Dorothea Dix property deal, which will allow the city to buy a sprawling psychiatric hospital campus from the state for a park. On Monday, they’ll hold another ceremony at the park to sign the papers sealing the deal.
A few months ago, the two were basking in the unveiling of Google Fiber high-speed Internet service in Raleigh.
In all three cases, the two officials have converged on a “strong cities” message, arguing that public projects in Raleigh could benefit a far broader area.
“A strong system will drive development and growth, not only for our city but also throughout the county and the state,” said McFarlane, over interruptions from a passing train’s whistle.
“This station is pivotal in that grander vision,” said Tony Tata, state Secretary of Transportation, referring to state transportation plans.
The federal government will provide the bulk of the project’s funding, with $53 million across three grants. Raleigh will provide $18 million to $19 million for the project. The state will round things out with $9 million.
Union Station comes alongside $500 million in planned improvements for speed and safety along the rail corridor between Raleigh and Charlotte.
At the end of the ceremony, McCrory and McFarlane joined other officials in donning hardhats and scooping dirt from a nicely prepared pile.
The loose earth lay near the future entrance of the building. Passengers arriving at the station will get one of their first views of downtown where the mayor and company sank their shovels.