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Construction of New Raleigh Transit Center Sparks Development

By May 19, 2017 No Comments
Raleigh Transit Center, conceptual drawing.

The new Raleigh Transit Center will anchor the city’s reviving Warehouse District. Rendering courtesy of Clearscapes.

RALEIGH, N.C. – Starting in early 2018, Amtrak customers traveling on the Carolinian (New York-Charlotte), Silver Star (New York-Raleigh-Miami) and Piedmont Service (Raleigh-Charlotte) will be greeted with a new multimodal transit center in downtown Raleigh’s Warehouse District.

The $79.8 million Raleigh Union Station Project moves passenger rail from the current station on Cabarrus Street to the new facility less than a mile away on West and Martin Streets. The project includes the rehabilitation of the Dillon Supply warehouse; track and platform construction; and signal and switch improvements. The project will occur in two phases.

Raleigh Cabarrus Street station.

Amtrak ridership has outgrown the small Cabarrus Street station, which opened in 1950.

Phase I includes the construction of a larger waiting room and enhanced amenities for Amtrak passengers; a center island platform with level-boarding to provide better access for passengers using wheeled-mobility devices and strollers; an enclosed concourse between the station and platform; commercial rental space that can be used for retail, office or restaurants; and a large public plaza that will provide an urban gathering space.

Sustainable elements include green roof areas and other stormwater management features, a pollinator garden and tactile wayfinding for customers who are blind or have low vision.

The next phase of the project is planned to accommodate additional intercity and intrastate rail services, regional commuter rail and local and regional buses. Once completed, Union Station will accommodate current and future demand for rail and transit services in Raleigh and will be a boon for ridership. In fiscal year 2016, more than 155,000 passengers began or ended their trip in Raleigh, which is served by eight daily trains. The state-owned Piedmont Service and the state-subsidized Carolinian are primarily financed through funds from the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT).

Raleigh Transit Center platforms, conceptual drawing.

From the transit center, Amtrak customers will be able to walk to downtown Raleigh, including the state capitol. Rendering courtesy of Clearscapes.

The transit center project has already sparked nearby business and residential development, a welcome sign of growth in the downtown area. “The Union Station project stands to change the economic development potential of the Warehouse District,” Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane said. “The station will replace what is currently an underutilized collection of warehouses and vacant land with a new city landmark that will not only serve as a multimodal transportation hub but also a civic space with potential for special events and expanded dining and entertainment options downtown. The station will drive development and growth throughout Wake County and the state.”

Paul Worley, Rail Division director, NCDOT, agreed. “When it opens, we’re going to see a rise in ridership, better connectivity between trains and city buses and a walkable environment for our customers to the downtown area. We will have a true center city connection. The vision from the city, NCDOT and our Amtrak partners is going to be very significant for Raleigh.”

Raleigh Transit Center construction.

The interior of the new transit center will allow for a much larger
waiting room and retail space.

Stephen Schuster, from Clearscapes, is the principal architect on the Union Station project. He lives in a loft near the site of the new transit center and can see the emerging landscape from his window. He appreciates the deep history of the railroad and industrial heritage in the Warehouse District and says that knowledge has influenced the center’s design. He also shares McFarlane’s and Worley’s enthusiasm for what it means for their community and said that the public and members of the Amtrak team were fully engaged throughout the design stage.

“Amtrak had a major impact on the final feel and plan of the building,” he said. “Ticketing, baggage, access to the platforms, the location of the crew base in the addition behind the building—all of that is a direct result of the input from the Amtrak team.”

Schuster added: “This is going to be a great station—but it’s more than that. It’s also an economic driver of this entire part of downtown. The more than $100 million private development happening across the street would not have happened without the Raleigh Union Station Project happening first.”

This article was adapted from a piece in the March-April 2017 edition of  Ink, Amtrak’s employee magazine.