Amtrak serves more than 500 stations in 46 states and the District of Columbia. Some communities are served by large, multi-track, intermodal stations with multiple departures from a variety of transportation providers, while other communities are served via more modest facilities that may consist of a platform and simple shelter.
What are Amtrak’s requirements for my station?
Requirements differ by staffing levels (staffed/unstaffed), size of station, platform restrictions and ridership level. Amtrak can offer experts who will assist you with determining your station requirements. However, all stations require Americans with Disabilities Act compliant signage and parking—details available here.
When in the process should I contact Amtrak? And who should I contact?
We will begin assisting you with the process as soon as you contact Amtrak. Should you be planning to begin any work on your station within the next few months, please contact us immediately. It is highly recommended you contact Amtrak prior to hiring an architect or designer for your station so we can provide necessary guidelines for a builder to include.
Where to Start
What do I need to know before starting the process?
The key to any successful project has and will always be the partnership developed between the city, the state Department of Transportation and Amtrak. Remain focused, patient and persistent. These traits, along with developed partnerships, are valuable assets for any project. Your Amtrak team can suggest other successful and similar projects as well as provide standard plans and photos for reference.
How should I get started?
First, advise Amtrak about your potential project. Our working relationship with the freight railroads can prove beneficial. By law, Amtrak has the right to remain in a depot at a level no less than what existed at the time of agreement between the community and the freight railroad. Amtrak must agree with any sale, lease or changes to the depot.
Do I need liability insurance?
Yes. The railroad will expect that the city has proper liability insurance in place. Your contractor will be required to have railroad protective insurance and other insurance policies required by that railroad.
Law requires railroad flagman protection anytime anyone is working within 25 feet of the track.
Who should approve the plans before breaking ground?
After Amtrak completes and approves plans, your next step will be to send them to the Federal Railroad Administration in Washington, DC for final approval.
How do I find out who owns the station in my community?
Amtrak owns a small portion of the stations we serve. The majority of stations are owned by cities, freight railroads, transit agencies, state Departments of Transportation and even individuals. Contact us if you need assistance in identifying who oversees your local station. Ownership information for the depot, platform, tracks and parking lot can be found on the individual station profile pages.
How many stations does Amtrak own?
Of the more than 500 Amtrak-served stations, Amtrak owns only a small percentage of the station structures, platforms and parking facilities. In many cases, host railroads, private parties, commuter railroads or transit agencies are the owners.
What if a host railroad owns the station?
You should contact the owner of the depot. Most railroad stations are still owned by a freight railroad. Our experience is that the railroad may sell, donate or lease the depot to the community. Cost will depend on the property in question and the railroad involved. If you need assistance contacting a host railroad, please reach out to your regional Amtrak Government Affairs representative.
Bricks and Mortar
Do I need a building assessment?
A full building assessment is a good idea for any rehabilitation project. We suggest conducting a detailed building assessment including structure, exterior, site, civil, parking, roof, HVAC, electrical, fire protection, security, Americans with Disabilities Act accessibility, and general code evaluations.
Do I need an architect?
Yes. An architect experienced in train station renovations would be an asset as such projects are inherently unique. Teamed with Amtrak and other project partners, the architect will develop a scope of work, a detailed basis of design, construction documents, a project schedule timeline and an estimate from which funding sources and amounts can be determined. Amtrak will provide approved standards to you or your architect and will show you how to apply these standards to your project.
Can Amtrak assist with funding?
With limited resources, Amtrak cannot guarantee funding or financial assistance for projects but will work closely with you to find funding sources or grants that can greatly impact your efforts. We are here to help.
What are some funding sources?
First contact your state Department of Transportation (DOT). In most states there is a rail section within the DOT that deals with Amtrak and the host railroads. They may assist with funding and/or show you how to obtain additional funding. For additional resources and grants, please visit our page on potential funding options.
How important is ADA compliance?
An Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant platform is one of the most important pieces of a station renovation project. Under the current ADA, access to the station and all major interior elements (i.e., ticket counter, restrooms) of that station as well as access to the train must be ADA compliant.
Amtrak will work with your design team as your renovation plans are developed.
What are platform requirements?
All platforms need to be accessible to people with disabilities. The height and length of the platform will vary according to the type of equipment used on that route, the platform’s proximity to tracks used for freight service and other factors. If there are two platforms, there must be Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant access between platforms. Amtrak will assist with defining the best possible length and height of the platform(s).
The Federal Railway Administration (FRA) may require that a platform be long enough to hold the longest train serving your station in one single stop. Each Amtrak car is 85 feet in length. Amtrak will work with your design team to determine the required length and height of a platform(s). We will coordinate the review of plans, when required, with the FRA or other U.S. Department of Transportation agency.
Should I apply for local/state/national historic status?
Historic designation—and whether it takes place at the federal, state or local level—determines eligibility for historic preservation tax credits, the ability to delay or stop demolition orders and the type of renovation or restoration work allowed. Properties placed on historic registers benefit from increased public awareness and recognition as important landmarks that help tell the stories of our communities and nation. Read more about the preservation of train stations.
How do I apply for historic status?
The process of applying for historic designation will depend on whether you are applying at the local, state or national level. If you are interested in local designation, consult your municipal historic preservation commission (note that not all municipalities have historic preservation programs). Some states also offer historic designation; contact your State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) for more information. The National Register of Historic Places has a set process that includes first contacting your SHPO, which reviews National Register applications and ensures that your property meets the criteria for listing. The National Register application includes writing a Narrative Description of the property as well as a Statement of Significance to justify why it is worthy of listing on the National Register.
Are there renovation restrictions if my station is a recognized historic property?
Historic designation can impose limitations on the scope of alterations to a property, and most local historic preservation ordinances require proposed work be reviewed by the preservation commission or similar body. The design review process will vary by locality and you should consult your local historic preservation body for more information. If a property is in a historic district, the local preservation organization probably has guidelines available for consultation during your design process. Listing on the National Register imposes no restrictions on a property, but if it is listed on the National Register and the owner takes advantage of federal historic preservation tax credits or other federal funding, the work must follow the guidelines set forth under the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties.