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Plan for Raleigh transit hub picks up steam

After years of discussion, officials on Friday unveiled a model of a proposed transit hub in downtown Raleigh and a four-part plan to build it.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — After years of discussion, officials on Friday unveiled a model of a proposed transit hub in downtown Raleigh and a four-part plan to build it.

Dubbed Union Station in honor of a 19th-century rail station near Nash Square, the transit hub would bring buses, trains and high-speed rail to one location on South West Street between West Morgan and West Martin streets.

It would combine services from the Greyhound Bus terminal on West Jones Street and the Amtrak station off West Cabarrus Street and would link yo Capital Area Transit and Triangle Transit services at Moore Square on the east side of downtown.

"It's very important we have the best transportation here. Rail is a key part of the future," Mayor Charles Meeker said.

Raleigh has the fifth busiest Amtrak terminal in the Southeast, officials said, and projections call for the station to handle more than 700,000 riders annually by 2018.

Union Station would also house retail space, and city leaders said they hope it could ignite residential growth nearby.

"It really is a game-changer for the whole Raleigh area," Meeker said.

The four-part development plan officials have suggested calls for environmental and engineering studies; relocating the Amtrak station, building a 200-space parking deck, relocating some rail lines and adjusting the Boylan Avenue Bridge; constructing part of the main Union Station complex to accommodate the Greyhound terminal; and building the rest of the facility, adding more parking and realigning the rest of the rail lines.

The city still needs to acquire some land needed for the project and coordinate with Amtrak and freight companies that use the rail lines, officials said.

Raleigh Planning Director Mitchell Silver said Union Station would likely cost between $151 million and $212 million, but it would serve as Raleigh's equivalent to Grand Central Station in New York.

"You want to have a grand waiting hall like other cities – Washington New York," Silver said. "(It would move Raleigh) to the 21st century to have a grand space for passengers and (for) welcoming people into the city."

City Councilman Bonner Gaylord, who was critical of a $205 million downtown tower for Raleigh's public safety operations, said he supports plans for Union Station.

"There's absolutely a need for (a transit hub)," Gaylord said.

Officials said they hope to get most of the funding for the project from the federal government, so Raleigh would have to pick up only $20 million of the tab.

"An investment in transportation infrastructure has a huge return," Gaylord said. "That's something that there is a tangible benefit to the citizens of Raleigh, and we will see long-term savings and long-term economic benefits for our region."

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Dan Bowens, Reporter
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