RALEIGH, N.C. – Amtrak began serving the new Raleigh Union Station on July 10, 2018, relocating from the smaller Cabarrus Street station about two blocks to the southeast. Located on the western edge of downtown, Union Station is envisioned as the hub of a new mixed-use district that will include residential, retail and office units as well as space for cultural institutions.
In January 2012, the mayor and the city council endorsed a recommendation by the city’s appointed Passenger Rail Task Force to adapt the vacant Dillon Supply warehouse to serve as the centerpiece of a new multimodal transportation center. City, state and federal leaders gathered to break ground on Union Station in May 2015, and construction lasted into early 2018.
The nearly $89 million project included rehabilitation of the 1940s-era warehouse, track and platform construction, and signal and switch improvements. Passenger areas are five times as large as those in the previous station to better handle growing ridership. The city oversaw station and site construction while the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) managed the track and rail infrastructure work. The project was in part funded through Transportation Investments Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grants awarded by the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Designed by Clearscapes, the station marries the skeleton of the old warehouse with contemporary design. As passengers approach from West Street or the platform, they are greeted by soaring facades of glass that allow natural light to brighten interior spaces. In the Main Hall, customers may relax in comfortable seating or plug in at a work station. The space showcases the building’s warehouse origins by reusing the steel framing – columns and beams – to create dramatic, high ceilings. In addition to passenger areas, the station also includes leasable space for retail, office and restaurant use.
The facility features a high-level platform, one of the few in the South. It is level with the train doors, making it easier for passengers to get on and off the train. With an eye to the future, space has been preserved for construction of a second platform as rail services expand.
The overall facility design incorporates numerous green features such as energy-efficient radiant heating in the Main Hall, on-site bioretention of storm water, permeable pavements that allow water to seep into the ground and green roofs.
Raleigh Union Station is served by ten daily trains: the state-owned Piedmont (Charlotte-Raleigh) and the state-subsidized Carolinian (Charlotte-New York), which are primarily financed through funds from the NCDOT, and the Silver Star (New York-Miami). In fiscal year 2017, nearly 151,000 customers began or ended their journey in Raleigh. To meet the increasing demand for passenger rail service and provide additional capacity, the state added a third round trip Piedmont train in June 2018.
Images courtesy of NCDOT.