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Rail News: Passenger Rail

Amtrak completes new Auto Train station, notes improvements at Mattoon facility


Yesterday, Amtrak announced it opened a new station in Sanford, Fla., near Orlando, to serve Auto Train passengers.

The new 10,000-square-foot facility seats 600 passengers, about four times larger than the previous facility. The national intercity passenger railroad received $10.5 million in American Railroad Recovery and Reinvestment dollars to reconstruct the station, which now features a ticket counter, café, restrooms and a gift shop. A portion of the former station abutting the new facility will be reconfigured into administrative offices, scheduled to open in early 2011.

Amtrak will use another $160,000 in ARRA funds to add a wheelchair lift and tactile edges to the station platforms.

The original Sanford depot was constructed in 1971 and renovated in 1995. During the 2004 hurricane season, the station sustained “extensive damage,” according to Amtrak. Part of the waiting room since has been sheltered in a tent, and the facility was not large enough to accommodate growing demand for the Auto Train service, which carries passengers and their automobiles between Lorton, Va., and Sanford.

Today, the station serves more than 244,000 passengers annually. During fiscal-year 2010, which ended Sept. 30, Amtrak registered a 5 percent ridership increase on the Auto Train service.

Meanwhile, Amtrak recently announced a four-year project to improve a station in Mattoon, Ill., has been completed. Funded by the Illinois Department of Transportation and other state agencies, the city of Mattoon and the Cole County Historical Society, the $3 million project called for replacing the station’s clay-tile roof, installing a new passenger elevator, making restrooms more accessible and preserving the historic building.

The project also included renovating spaces on the mezzanine and street levels to accommodate a historical museum display area and future commercial tenants.

The Mattoon station, which also serves nearby Charleston and Eastern Illinois University, has served more passengers in recent years. In FY2010, an all-time-high 30,851 passengers began or ended their trips in Mattoon, according to Amtrak. The facility is served by Amtrak’s Illini, Saluki and City of New Orleans trains.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 10/19/2010