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— by Jeff Stagl, Managing Editor
On June 11, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced it received 568 applications for the fifth round of the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant program, with recipients to be chosen in September. The applications cover a variety of transportation projects totaling more than $9 billion.
One project isn't new to the TIGER program; its organizer is seeking a second-straight grant. The city of Raleigh, N.C., has applied for a $22.25 million TIGER V grant for the Raleigh Union Station project, which calls for building a downtown multi-modal hub to replace a small Amtrak station on Cabarrus Street. Built in 1950, the station no longer can adequately serve an increasing number of rail passengers in the region. The city plans to provide $5.75 million, or 20 percent, in matching funds for a $28 million portion of the work.
Last year, the city received a $21 million TIGER IV grant for the project. That grant will help fund track and platform work, while the TIGER V grant would address funding for the station, says Paul Worley, the director of the North Carolina Department of Transportation's (NCDOT) Rail Division. The total project cost had been estimated at $60 million — including some state funding — but a new estimate is anticipated by late July, he says.
"We're still working on funding from the state and city," says Worley. "We have both committed to moving it ahead."
In addition to the city and NCDOT, project stakeholders include CSX Corp., Norfolk Southern Railway, North Carolina Railroad Co., Amtrak and the Triangle Transit Authority.
Raleigh Union Station would serve multiple transportation modes, including Capital Area Transit bus service; Triangle Transit regional bus service (and proposed commuter-rail service); Greyhound long-distance bus service; Amtrak Silver Star, Carolinian and Piedmont services; and future local, regional and high-speed rail services. The station would be a major stop along the proposed Southeast high-speed rail corridor between Washington, D.C., and Atlanta.
"The station is one of the most popular in the Southeast," says Worley.
And the area's ridership continues to grow. In fiscal-year 2011, the existing station served 192,434 passengers, making it Amtrak's second-busiest station in the Southeast. Ridership in 2044 is expected to exceed 600,000, and if the larger station is constructed, it could surpass 730,000.
The project calls for reusing a Triangle Transit-owned building that's been vacant since 2005 to create a 26,000-square-foot station. The facility would feature a 7,950-square-foot passenger waiting area, quadrupling the current waiting area; an 800-foot-long passenger platform including a 600-foot-long canopy; and a center-island platform that would accommodate boarding from either side of a train.
Design work is under way for both the station and track/platform work, and is projected to wrap up in late 2014. Construction on the track and platforms could start in 2015.
One major hurdle as of mid-2013: Obtaining design input on the track and platforms from all stakeholders, including Triangle Transit, which now is modeling its proposed commuter-rail project, says Worley.
The entire project is expected to be completed sometime in 2017 if all funding is secured.
Although some funding still isn't certain, the objective of Raleigh Union Station sure is: that the capacity created by the project meets freight- and passenger-rail demands, says Worley.
"It will address all needs," he says.