In case you missed the story over at the Herald-Sun yesterday, there’s good news to report on the Amtrak station front. According to Ray Gronberg in Sunday’s H-S lead Durham story, the City, West Village, and NCDOT are close to a compromise agreement to move the Bull City’s passenger train station from its ridiculously overcrowded and underbuilt trailer-style accomodations on Chapel Hill St. to the Walker Warehouse right across the train tracks.
The 11,000 sq. ft. space (which NCDOT has fretted is bigger than required for an Amtrak station) would fill up the southeastern side of Walker, whose northern end is destined for street-level retail and possibly restaurants. Parking is accessible to the east and south of Walker, connecting to both Main St. and, behind the new Chesterfield factory, Duke St. as well. (See this earlier discussion of this phase of West Village for more details.)
A city financial contribution will be required towards the overall cost of the new space; Durham has been asked to pick up 25% of the cost, as the new space will be larger than needed for the Amtrak depot. See the H-S story for more; Gary’s got some thoughts posted on the project at Endangered Durham, too.
Frankly, I was very pleasantly surprised by the good news on this front. As of a few months ago, the outlook on the Amtrak move out of its silly “Amshack” accommodations on Chapel Hill was apparently rather bleak. Which would have been a shame, given that Durham’s suffered along with a truly inadequate station for years. Hearing that Lyndo Tippett, NCDOT’s secretary, appears to now be fully on-board with this project is welcome news.
Thinking down the road, one of the most important side benefits may be the impact of the Walker station on tourism in the Bull City. It’s easy to imagine visitors taking the intercity train in from Charlotte, or Greensboro, or other points on the Carolina/Piedmont lines and spending a day in downtown Durham, shopping the West Village and Brightleaf areas, or staying at one of the hotels or B&Bs in and around downtown. Instead of a train station that’s an afterthought, a beautiful station in the heart of Durham becomes part of the attraction.
(Needless to say, had Durham not had the ‘foresight’ to tear down Durham’s rather more beautiful Union Station for an urban-renewal-inspired parking garrage back in the day, this isn’t a discussion we would be having, but anyway.)
One question unanswered for me at least is what impact this move will have on the Durham Station local/regional/intercity bus station under construction across the street from the existing Amtrak station. One hopes the powers that be will add some form of pedestrian crossing between the Walker Building and the south side of the tracks such that bus passengers can transfer to and from rail without having to march around the downtown loop or down Main St.
In any event, it’s good to see this moving forward, and for Durham to at last get the kind of train station it deserves to have.