Raleigh’s Long-Awaited New 'Front Door' Is Nearly Complete

An Amtrak train pulls into the current train station, at left, which sits adjacent to the new Raleigh Union Station complex, at right.

An Amtrak train pulls into the current train station, at left, which sits adjacent to the new Raleigh Union Station complex, at right. Michael Grass / Route Fifty

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A new multi-modal transportation hub has sparked mixed-use development and fueled neighborhood revitalization in North Carolina's capital city.

RALEIGH, N.C. — It’s not yet open for business, but the new Union Station complex that’s been taking shape on the edge of the downtown area here in North Carolina’s capital city is definitely in the home stretch toward an expected springtime opening.

As Route Fifty was waiting for an Amtrak train at the current 1950s-era station on Thursday morning, crews were busy on adjacent tracks that will service a new 920-foot-long high-level passenger platform, which is connected to the new Union Station multi-modal transportation hub. That complex, with estimated construction costs of around $88 million, is being built with a combination of state and local funding plus Obama-era federal grants.

Part of Raleigh's new "front door." (Michael Grass / Route Fifty)

The new station, which is about a 10-minute walk from the State Capitol and the heart of downtown, has helped attract new development to Raleigh’s Warehouse District and surrounding neighborhoods. That includes The Dillon, a 2.5-acre mixed-use complex with apartments and an 18-story office tower currently under construction immediately to the east of the new station.

The Dillon includes an 18-story office tower near the new Raleigh Union Station. (Michael Grass / Route Fifty)

The forthcoming train station been described as Raleigh’s new “front door,” and, as Route Fifty has previously featured, is just part of a long-range vision that makes North Carolina’s capital an important gateway for intercity rail travelers going between the Southeastern U.S. and the busy Northeast Corridor.

The site plan for the new Union Station complex. (NCDOT Rail Division)

While that long-range vision depends on creating a new high-speed rail shortcut along a partially abandoned right-of-way that once carried trains between Raleigh and Richmond, Virginia, local leaders in North Carolina’s capital city have a shorter-term project they’d like to pursue: a tunnel that would reconnect West Street under the tracks and allow for the elimination of the a track crossing at Cabarrus Street, the last such grade crossing in the downtown area.

The problem: Uncertainty surrounding future federal funding for transportation projects.

As The News & Observer reported Thursday:

It’s not clear when the tunnel would be built, [Raleigh transportation planning manager Eric] Lamb says. The transportation bond approved by voters in the fall authorizes the city to borrow $10 million for the project—$3 million for design and engineering work and $7 million that the city would put up to try to win a federal grant, he said.

The tunnel is expected to cost $35 million to $40 million, Lamb said. The city wants to complete the planning so that it is able to begin construction when federal money becomes available, he said.

Raleigh officials, of course, aren’t alone. State and local transportation planners plus elected leaders across the nation who are pursuing major infrastructure projects are waiting for clarity from Congress and the Trump administration regarding the future of federal funding.

Stay tuned …

Michael Grass is Executive Editor of Government Executive’s Route Fifty and is based in Seattle.

NEXT STORY: Congress Kicks Off Discussions About Trump’s Infrastructure Plan