Raleigh seeks federal funds for transit hub
Posted February 21, 2012
Updated March 6, 2012
Raleigh, N.C. — The City Council voted Tuesday to apply for a federal grant to pick up the lion's share of the cost for a rail station in west Raleigh that also would serve as a hub for regional transit services.
Planners want to convert the former Dillon Viaduct Building on West Martin Street into Union Station, which would replace the 62-year-old Amtrak station on Cabarrus Street. The first phase of the project is projected to cost about $75 million, and the federal grant would pay for $60 million of that.
"This is the first domino that, if we're successful with establishing this facility to become our anchor and hub for downtown for transit, that gives it the ability to grow," said Eric Lamb, manager of Raleigh's Transportation Services Division.
The first phase of improvements will include the building renovation, constructing various track, siding, and platform improvements and extending West Street.
Raleigh and the state Department of Transportation would each have to pitch in about $7 million for the project. Local voters approved $3 million of Raleigh's total in a transportation bond last fall, and officials said the remainder would come from shifting money from other projects and generating revenue through new fees.
The Amtrak station serves eight passenger trains a day, but its waiting room is smaller than those in Selma, Cary and High Point, officials said. It also has inadequate parking, and its platform isn't long enough to accommodate larger trains.
"We have existing demand. We're No. 2 in the Southeast in terms of train travel," Lamb said.
Union Station would handle Amtrak, freight trains, high-speed regional service and commuter rail, as well as Triangle Transit and Capital Area Transit buses.
Michael Sanera, director of research and local government studies for the conservative John Locke Foundation, spoke out at the City Council meeting against Wake County's regional transit plan, and he said he also opposes the Union Station idea.
"As a political scientist, this is part and parcel of the problem of the federal deficit," Sanera said.
Lamb said the federal government pays for most infrastructure projects nationwide.
"If we don't apply for it, somebody else is going to," he said.
If Raleigh's grant application is approved, the city must break ground by the fall of 2013 or risk losing the federal funds.