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Raleigh seeks federal funds for transit hub

Posted February 21, 2012
Updated March 6, 2012

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— 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.

Proposed Union Station in Raleigh Proposed rail station 'first domino' for Raleigh transit hub

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.

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  • curiousgeorgia Feb 23, 2012

    While I usually tend to be conservative on many subjects this time I say to Mr. Sanera stop being obstructive just because it is money from the Feds! It is much better to build a railway hub than to use the money for something stupid like a useless war. At least an improved rail system would make life easier for lower income groups who soon will not even be able to afford to own a car, much less pay for the gasoline.

  • floydthebarber Feb 22, 2012

    Hooray for rail travel! Easiest trip I ever made to NYC in my life, and I left right from little ol' Cary Amtrak station. Our country needs smart transporation solutions like this. Something to manage the disturbing sprawl all around us.

  • Obama 2012 Feb 22, 2012

    To rail opponents- yes because 1 billion in Amtrak's subsidy, is such a waste compared to 40 billion towards highways. Especially since ridership has been breaking records for the past 5 years, and 30 million folks rode nationally, this past year.

    Stop whining about taxes, if you stopped voting Republican, our money wouldn't go to bomb other country's infrastructure, and go towards our own.

  • LuvLivingInCary Feb 22, 2012

    the wealthiest man in NC owns adjoining property. expect this to go through and be done on a big scale.

  • Ex-Republican Feb 21, 2012

    ".. , and the federal grant would pay for $60 million of that."

    How many towns, hamlets, cities are looking to the federal government for 50 or 60 million for this train hub, that highway expansion, or this water treatment plant. Mulitply the $60 million by a factor of a thousand and you immediately see just how we got into this mess.

    They say all politics is local. Infrastructure funding should be local too. Let Raleigh raise taxes or have some big bank pay to put their name on the thing.

  • budatduke Feb 21, 2012

    Seventy-five million dollars!!!!!!!!!! The people of this state, the middle class working people, are the ones who are going to pay for this. After everything is said and done it will be close to five hundred million.