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Good news on the Amtrak/West Village front

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.



>>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.

Such a pedestrian bridge was part of the original plan presented to the public at the City-sponsored forum I went to in July, 2004. You can see the bridge in the site renderings found on Freelon's webpage (http://www.freelon.com/portfolio/220#), and I would guess that the bridge is still part of the project. The representatives present at that meeting were already assuming that national rail (Amtrak), regional rail (TTA), and ground transportation would be served on three separate sites.

Ah, how the old Union Station would have solved this Cerebus-esque problem.

Granville Guy

Imagine a businessman arriving on Amtrak from Charlotte and wanting to catch the TTA bus to RTP. It’s raining, 99 degrees or freezing outside. He/she can see Durham Station across the tracks but getting over there would ruin his/her day.

I think Greensboro got it right with their transportation hub (Gaylon Transportation Center). They have bus, taxi and Amtrak all under one roof. I wish Amtrak-NCDOT had chosen to set up in Durham Station but it appears they prefer more historic buildings. Someone should have tried harder to bring all modes of transportation under one roof.

If the city of Durham can provide a functional way for pedestrians to access the Walker Amtrak Station from Durham Station, this multimodal concept may still work.


Oops, I misread the bridge idea. The Freelon bridge crosses West Chapel Hill Street between the TTA station and the new bus station. What the plans are to connect TTA to Amtrak (if Amtrak actually does end up in Walker), I do not know.


I think downtown could use the extra 11,000 sq feet for more retail, that is what I think people would rather see, especially people living here. I mean if Amtrak wants to be less busy they should have more than one train heading north everyday. How big is that building? It seems like devoting at least a fifth of it to a train station is not desirable to me. Maybe if they were only going to use half of that space.

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